A STUDY OF REMORSE
By C. L. ANTROBUS
AUTHOR OF 'WILDERSMOOR' ETC.
G. P. PUTNAM,S SONS
NEW YORK & LONDON
Zbc Uniclietbocher ^xcee
* NORTH WAS THE GARDEN'
^\\T HAT time is it ? ' asked the man at the window.
V V ' Half-past twelve/ carelessly answered the
man in the street, walking on with leisurely step.
It was not until he had gone some little way that
the strangeness of the question struck him. Why,
indeed, should, a man indoors ask the time of a man
without ? And at past midnight ? The stroller stopped,
reflected a moment, then turned back.
He was an observant, idly inquisitive man ; an artist,
and the public was beginning to recognise him as such,
honouring him after the fashion of Heliogabalus. with
much feasting and final smother. Mark Parfitt liked
the feasting, and sat tight, lest any should take his
place. He meant to move up higher bye-and-bye, and
he did. To-night, however, when he answered that
curious question addressed to him from an open win-
dow, he was but a new-comer at the feast, a young man
of three and twenty, who had had singular success with
his first picture. His artist friends said that was owing
to its being the apotheosis of ugliness. To which
criticism Mark briefly replied, ' It pays.'
2 Quality Corner
This summer he was spending his holiday in a manu-
facturing town in the Midlands, painting the portrait
of the mayor. The smoke and grime and squalor did
not repel him. On the contrary, he was interested.
There were subjects on all sides, and he made a number
of sketches that were very useful to him later.
So the oddness of the incident struck him. Here
might be another subject. At any rate, it was curious,
and Parfitt turned back, as has been said.
The street was not attractive. A row of small houses
on the right, a canal on the left, and behind and be-
yond tall buildings and taller chimneys; all dingy,
squalid — the back-yard of King Gold.
Yet, under the black dome of night and smoke, the
two magicians, Light and Shadow, threw an unreal
picturesqueness on its dull misery. Away against the
murky heaven sheet lightning played silently, in-
cessantly, the Handwriting on the Wall. But few ob-
served it, for the waving scarlet flames of yonder fur-
nace leapt up every moment, not illuminating the dark-
ness, but increasing it by bewilderment of olive-black
shadows, fantastic, threatening, gigantic. The water
in the canal shone glassy olive in the glare; while be-
yond, the dazzled eye saw nothing save yet blacker
depths of gloom. When the flames sank for a minute's
pause, the lightning showed the surroundings with
tolerable clearness ; and it was noticeable how, of the
passers-by, those who walked easily by the lightning
stumbled when the furnace flames shot up; whereas
those who stepped confidently in the red glare hesitated
when only that unheeded Handwriting lit the air.
It was by the swift white light of that Handwriting
that Mark Parfitt had seen the face of the man at the
A Study of Remorse 3
window. The scarlet flames had sunk, and the hght-
ning — it is more comfortable to call it lightning — had
shone suddenly, broadly on the questioner ; on the face
of a student, a thinker, deHcate, wide-browed, thought-
ful, dreamy, hesitating. The deep eyes had looked out
into the hot airless midnight with a kind of startled
wonder ; and the clear voice — a gentleman's voice, Par-
fitt noted — vibrated with a thrill as of breathless haste
passing into apparent repose, like the motionless-seem-
ing of the spinning world.
Mark was no fool. He recognised strong emotion
when he met with it, and appreciated it as material that
might be made useful to himself, as the sea-tides may
furnish power to turn a merry-go-round. x\lso, he
was naturally inquisitive. Here was something hap-
pening, something out of the common too, judging
from the face revealed by the lightning. But Parfitt
had lost the house. Which was it? All the shabby
little houses looked alike. The window had been open,
and a lamp burning within. Yes, but the night was
hot, and people sit up late in manufacturing towns ;
many windows were open and lights burning down-
stairs along the street.
' About half-way, and had dark curtains,' said Mark
to himself, as the red flames rose and fell, and the
pallid lightning illumined the dingy dwellings he scru-
tinised so narrowly as he passed them. The gas lamps,
only two in number, were useless, the glasses being
hopelessly dirty and blurred, and the feeble flames
within showing merely as yellow stars.
He must depend, as the inhabitants did, upon the
furnace glare and any light that might shine from
heaven. Here was a dark-curtained window, and here
4 Quality Corner
another and another. His footsteps sounded loudly
on the pavement — Parfitt was one of those loosely-
built men who walk heavily even in youth. He paused
an instant, looking at the third house. Someone, a
girl, drew the dark curtain a few inches aside and
glanced out ; then the curtain fell back in its place. In
that moment she had seen Mark distinctly — a tall,
narrow-shouldered man, slightly stooping, with sharp
features, and pale eyes set too closely together. All
this she saw by a quick outburst of scarlet light, while
Parfitt, catching only the dim outline of a woman's
head, turned disappointedly away, to search other win-
dows equally in vain for that clear-cut, deep-eyed,
pathetic face that had looked out at him so vividly in
the lightning's gleam.
He walked quite to the end of the street, where it
joined a main thoroughfare. Opposite was an open
space with a large building, the hospital. To the left
was a theatre ; to the right a church with an illuminated
clock. Parfitt glanced up at it; five minutes to one.
Twenty minutes since that question^ ' What time is
it ? ' had been addressed to him. Once more he re-
traced his steps, walking quickly, his eyes rapidly
noting each house as he passed. Again no result.
' Not worth while spending the night over,' he re-
flected, ' yet I had a sort of notion that fellow wanted
me — wanted help somehow. Perhaps he didn't want
me — didn't want anybody — rather not! Awful hole,
anyway ! '
And thus thinking, Mark turned the comer into
another street and walked briskly to his hotel.
THE little town of Ringway sat huddled on its
wood-crowned hill side like Puck on a leaf, and
its ruler was the strong west wind that blew up from
the Irish sea some twenty miles away. This warm
wet sweeping wind clothed all the land with unfading
green, as emerald in winter as in spring, and gave to
Ringway a curious goblin beauty of sudden lights and
transient glooms, of quick sparkling showers, of soft
colouring of deep green moss and ashen-grey lichen
and blue mist — a dusky Arcadia.
Strangers came and called it pretty; then, because
they could not see colour, thev said it had no colour,
and they departed in search of chromolithographic
scenery. Ringway cared nothing. For nearly a thou-
sand years it had crouched there on the old red sand-
stone, watching the forests change into wide pastures,
and a dark blur rise in the north-east — the cloud of
smoke that hangs ever over busy manufacturing
Woflendale. Ringway looked on serenely at the murky
patch and thanked Heaven it was not as its neighbour.
Yet the near presence of that grimy Publican un-
doubtedly gave a unique character to the little place,
for there was always the underlying consciousness of
the rush and clang of that roaring hive of men.
Amidst the shrill twittering of the darting swallows
one seemed to listen for the throb of engines, to look
for the furnace flames in the sunrise. A sense of
6 Quality Corner
strife emanated from that north-eastern blur — Tubal-
cain working in his smithy outside green Eden.
Ringway bred a sturdy race, not precisely what is
understood by the word ' rural.' The people were
quiet and stolid, with a slow fire in their veins that
flamed up as suddenly as a naphtha well and burnt as
inextinguishably. Norse blood is apt to turn Berserk.
They felt uneasy about ghosts and the devil, witches
and second-sight, and combined with all this a shrewd-
ness in business and a proficiency in drawing eye-teeth
that did not wholly please the stranger in Arcadia.
They were a long-memoried folk too, and had usu-
ally taken a hand — and that a heavy one — in public
matters. Therefore, if you conversed with the elders
in friendly fashion, you would bye-and-bye hear how
this man's great-grandfather was ' out in the Forty-
Five,' how that man's grandfather lost a leg at Peterloo,
and how the forbears of another helped to kill the last
wolf in the country, 'two mile away over yonder.'
The market-piace might be called the heart of Ring-
way, and just where the high road turned out of it
stood Quality Corner. The name was not in the Post
Office Directory, but nobody in the town ever called it
anything else. Strangers sometimes enquired the
whereabouts of High Street, and were regarded with
suspicion in consequence. But to ask for Quality
Corner was a proof that you had belongings in Ring-
way, and were therefore probably respectable, even
though you were personally unknown. The local name
too, as natives pointed out, was accurately descriptive,
which the other appellation was not; for Quality
Corner was not a street, but a corner, and quality had
always lived there — witness the tall old houses, Jour in
A Study of Remorse 7
number, two on each side, their front doors opening
on the street, and their long sunny back gardens
spreading out down the slope of the hill like a pea-
cock's tail. If you turned to the right out of the
Corner, you were in the market-place ; if to the left,
you were on the wnde white road that climbed the
hill to Ringway woods, and then turned sharply west,
winding by hamlet and town to an old walled city
that had seen the Roman standards glitter against the
•blue. This last state of the high-road was better than
its first, for it started from Woffendale, that dark blur
on Ringway's north-eastern horizon. In summer the
blur was grey, and the heaven above it grey too. In
winter the blur was a darker stain, a blacker shadow
on the sky ; the smoke of the burning of health and
life and fair peace and rest.
Quality Corner was neighbourly. It did not hold
itself aloof. It liked looking out upon the market-
place and the market-place reciprocated the interest,
duly discussing the affairs of Quality Corner after it
had settled its own, and before it turned to those of the
nation. True, there were other clusters of houses —
some old, embowered in greenery ; some new, big stone
villas built by Woffendale merchants; that claimed
occasional attention from Ringway gossip. But all
these were scattered outside the town, were not a
part of it, as was Quality Corner.
This golden June day there chanced to be more to
talk about than usual. Also, being market day, there
were more people to talk, which was another advan-
tage. That time in the afternoon when business is
over, and the farmers are lounging about while their
horses are being brought out, is the time when the
8 Quality Corner
thoughts of men turn lightly towards their neighbours'
doings. Ringway market-place possessed two centres
of gossip — the principal inn and old Solomon Ingers'
shop. Solomon was a seedsman of repute, and sup-
plied the town and the farmers round, as his father and
grandfather had done before him. He was a little
shrivelled old man, who looked as though the strong
sun of life had bleached him, changing the ruddy tints
to faint greys, ivory yellows, silver whites. His hair
was silver, his eyes pale blue, his face colourless ; and
always he wore, summer and winter, a suit of lightest
grey; with a long white seedsman's apron tied round
him ; and in his thin yellow fingers he carried an
ancient snuff-box of wood, polished by constant use,
and bearing on its lid a roughly carved profile of
Prince Charlie. Old Sol was proud of this Jacobite
relic. His people had been, in the phrase of the
country-side, ' out in the Forty-Five,' and from one
of these faithful enthusiasts the box had descended to
' Fur Church an' King,' he would say, tapping the
lid, * an' land,' taking a pinch, ' an' respectable folk.'
Other forms of tobacco he disdained :
* A pipe dunnot tell what a mon is. He con talk
treason with it in's teeth, or waving it in's bond like
a jackass's ear ; but snuff is fur gentlemen an' them as
holds with gentlemen. Did tha ever see a chap talk
treason wi' a snuff-box in's bond? No, an' tha never
He was rarely contradicted, for he possessed a tongue,
and an intimate knowledge of the family history
of every man in Ringway for three generations back,
and more. Those who have lived in a country town
A Study of Remorse 9
will appreciate the strength of this combination. His
forbears had lived and died in the same house which he
now occupied in his turn — a small two-storeyed build-
ing with an oriel window, behind the panes of which
bags of seed were piled high. Over this was the win-
dow of Sol's bedroom, whence he had almost as good
a view of the market-place as from the steps. In fact,
he lived in the market-place. From the time he was
a tiny lad his eyes dwelt on those familiar stones, those
familiar houses. He had broken his knees on the cob-
bles and barked his shins on the steps ; on the worn
pavement he had played marbles in summer and
thrown snowballs in winter; and had been whipped
in public by his grandfather for sliding thereon. All
the familiar faces, gradually growing older, passed
and re-passed before him daily. Now and then one
disappeared, and instead, the familiar name was to
be read in the old churchyard overlooking the valley —
the dead town near the living one, in friendly wise.
Few Ringway folk went far away, and they who did
usually returned. The place had a curious fascina-
tion for all whose childish feet had trodden its paths.
In his youth Solomon Ingers had been crossed in
love, a more serious matter north than south ; conse-
quently he had not married till late in life, when he
had chosen an elderly widow with some property.
As befitted a man of Sol's opinions, his cronies were
men of substance ; sturdy farmers, well-to-do trades-
men, and often ' th' better end,' i. e. the gentry, might
be seen lingering on old Sol's steps. So old-world
was he, and therefore so companionable.
This afternoon the June sun shone on his silver
head as he stood on the top step, snuff-box in hand,
lO Quality Corner
the warm light seeming only to accentuate his
shrivelled paleness, to glance off the surface as it
were; whereas those same sunbeams rested genially,
penetratingly on the group of ruddy-faced farmers
just below him. They were discussing the unusual
circumstance of Number One Quality Corner, chang-
ing its tenant. Three of the residents were the
owners also, but Number One was occasionally to let,
and had always been occupied by a doctor. The man
who had now taken the practice and home of his pre-
decessor was a stranger, therefore the minds of the
Ringway people were much exercised respecting
* It isna th' house fur luck, that theer Number
One,' remarked a sturdy farmer, gazing meditatively
across the market-place at Quality Corner.
' Happen this new chap'U change th' luck, being a
stranger,' suggested another. For Ringway believed
in the superior luck of a stranger as against that of a
' Dr. Smith wurna a stranger,' said Sol, mentioning
the last occupant of Number One.
* No more he wur ! I'd forgot. Well, he got off
better nor most. He isna dead o' th' house.'
' He said he'd dee if he stopped in it. But he wur a
* Ay, he wur,' acquiesced a bystander. ' He wouldna
take any soide in politics. He said he didna know
which soide had getten th' biggest fools.'
' Why th' soide he wur on hissen, o' course,' ob-
served another farmer.
' Ay, but tha sees, he were on no soide.'
' Then he mun ha' been soft in th' head ! I dunnot
A Study of Remorse il
wonder th' place didna agree wi' him ! ' with the scorn
of an old Athenian for the man of no party.
' But there is summat wrong about th' house,'
persisted farmer Stretton, who had first spoken.
' Dost tha mind, Sol, how th' doctor afore Smith
ended wi' hanging hissen; an' th' one afore that died
o' drink, an' th' one afore him wur killed wi' his horse
running away ? '
' I mind it all well,' responded Sol, ' an' it wur th'
same i' my grandfather's time, fur I've heard him say
' If yon house wur mine,' said a broad pleasant-
looking man with brown eyes, farmer Abel Gresty,
* I'd ha' th' parson in to pray a bit an' see what that
' Or an owd witch-woman,' said farmer Stretton.
' Wheer theer's owt wrong wi' house or beast, a witch-
woman '11 fettle 'em a sight better nor a parson.
When my cows got th' sickness i' th' spring — eight on
'em slaughtered — an' I wur feart o' th' rest going, I
sent fur parson to read th' prayers fur th' sick. He
coom hot-foot, wi' th' prayer-book in's bond, an' by
th' gate he says to me, *' I am truly sorry to hear you
have sickness in th' home. It is a sore affliction."
" Ah," I says, " yo' may well say that, parson." " An'
where is th' sick?" says he. "Here," says I, leading
th' way to th' shippon. He seemed surprised-like,
but my moind wur that full o' th' cows that I never
thought to explain. An' would yo' believe it? When
he got into th' shippon an' see th' cows a' standing
ready, an' me taking oflt' my hat fur th' praying, he
wur downright mad an' wouldna so much as read a
verse, let alone a prayer. I says to him, " Parson,
12 Quality Corner
tha'd a deal better read prayers o'er them innocent
dumb beasts than o'er some folks in Ringway, an'
theer's Scripture fur it too. Didna th' Lord bless th'
cattle o' Jacob ? " But theer ! yo' know what parsons
be. He were as stunt as a two-year-owd bull. So I
says, " Well, parson, we'll say no more about it," an'
off I went to th' owd witch-woman by th' Moss Brook.'
Here Stretton paused with the instinct of a born
story-teller, halting at the most exciting point.
' An' what happened ? ' asked his deeply in-
terested audience, while old Solomon silently offered
the historic snuff-box. Stretton took up about a tea-
spoonful between his finger and thumb, and resumed
his tale. ' Oh, th' owd lass did first-rate. Hoo gave
me some dry herbs to burn i' th' shippon day an'
neet, to drive off th' sickness. An' they did it too,
fur th' cows kept all reet. I lost no more. Ay, them
wur powerful herbs. Yo' could smell 'em fur half a
mile when th' wind set that way.'
* That's what Basset up at Quality Corner is
always sayin,' remarked Gresty, speaking of his land-
lord. * He holds as the smell o' herbs an' flowers
'11 do anything. Summat o' th' sort mout be tried wi'
Number One. It mout turn th' luck a bit.'
* Is the' new chap married, Sol ? ' asked another
Sol shook his head, replying laconically ' Bachelor.'
' 'Tis a queer thing,' commented the last speaker,
' that the' folks i' Number One are alius bachelors.
Happen th' house 'ud ha' better luck if theer wur a
woman in it."
* Ay,' said Gresty, blowing a sigh that was audible
across the market-place, ' a woman makes a sight o
A Study of Remorse 13
difference i' th' house. I'm that moithered wi' th'
children I conna tell barley fro' th' oats, an' I've
more'n half a moind to sleep i' th' shippon fur peace
' Cows isna bad company,' remarked Stretton, ' but
what's wrong wi' th' little uns?'
' Nowt, barring th' want o' a mother,' responded
the widower, and a murmur of commiseration ran
through the group. Old Sol took a pinch of snuff
and said impressively :
* Tha mun wed again, Gresty. No disrepect to
her that's gone. She made thee a good wife, an' she
wouldna be pleased to see th' little uns running wild-
' That's true enow.' Gresty blew another sigh.
' It isna easy to choose. A young lass 'ud be too
flighty, an' I couldna stond an owd one.'
' Theer's Jane Worsley,' suggested a friend; * hoo's
neither young nor owd, but betwixt an' between, wi'
th' trifle o' brass her grandfather left her, an' a good
' Ay, hoo's a good lass,' responded Gresty with a
complete absence of enthusiasm.
Sol answered the tone.
' Jane isna exactly a beauty, but she's a good sort,
an' theer's th' brass. Tha might do worse, Gresty/
' I mout,' he assented, ' but I amna keen after
brass, an' I loike summat to look at. My missis that's
gone wur as pretty as a pansy.'
At this moment a man passed — a gentleman —
going towards Quality Corner, walking with a light
swift step. He looked about thirty, perhaps a little
more, of middle height and slender build, yet of un-
14 Quality Corner
usual breadth of shoulder. His hair and eyes were
dark, and the quiet curves of the mouth, together
with the observant kindly glance, spoke of great
patience A thinker certainly, a dreamer perhaps,
gentle by birth, gentle also in manner, and doubtless
in disposition. Yet as the sweetest flowers may grow
on the slope of a volcano, a man's looks and manner
do not proclaim absolutely what he will do in un-
expected circumstances. James Cassilis was one about
whom there was just that slight uncertainty which
gives interest. One could not be quite sure what he
would do. Suppose anybody kicked him? Would
he go quietly home and send for his lawyer to demand
an apology ? Or would he instantly turn and retaliate ?
Roughly speaking, all mankind may be ranged
into two divisions by this test. Sometimes the latter
type may be compelled by circumstances to adopt the
tactics of the former. But the restraining power of
circumstances is not to be relied upon. If the steam-
pressure is too great, there is a scattering of the
boiler; likewise of the bystanders. Perhaps Cassilis
chiefly impressed strangers as holding life lightly, yet
taking a deep interest in it; therein differing from
the majority of his fellows. For they hold life with a
grip of death, cold, evilly mechanical, whining the
while that there is naught in all this lovely world worth
a moment's thought.
' Theer's th' new chap,' said one of the group on
Sol's steps, and all eyes followed Cassilis.
* He may ha' getten some head-filling,' Stretton
observed, after three minutes' deliberation. ' I loike
his looks. I've half a moind to try him fur my missis's
rheumatism. What dost think, Sol ? '
A Study of Remorse 15
' Well, he conna be a bigger fool than Smith wur,'
replied Sol drily, adding, ' I think he'll do.'
Which favourable opinion at once gave ' th' new
chap ' a recognised position in Ringway.
Cassilis paused a moment at his own door, and
glanced back at the sunny market-place with its gos-
siping groups. It pleased him. He was a stranger,
and the place looked friendly. There was a cool
moist sweetness in the air, a softened gold in the
sunshine, that insensibly calmed and soothed. The
sounds were pleasant, and came gently to the ear as
though muffled by some unknown attribute of the
atmosphere. Homely sounds ; the broad-vowelled
hum of conversation, the ring of horses' hoofs on the
cobbles, and a sound unfamiHar to Cassilis's ears, the
clacking of wood on stone — clogs on the pavement —
all scarcely audible, hushed, subdued, as though much
farther away than the length of the market-place.
Now this strange stillness, this curiously distant
murmur to which all sound was reduced, seemed to the
stranger as the surface ripple of a placid stream. Later,
he associated this characteristic with all the country
round, and thought of it as the undertone of the sea.
As he went indoors, the old housekeeper, who
seemed to be transferred with the house like the gas-
fittings, met him with a note. ' From Mr. Basset,
next door,' she said. It was an invitation to dinner
that evening at Number Two, and Cassilis read it
with pleasant anticipation. He liked going out. He
was a man whom his fellow-men interested and who
' Next door,' he repeated, folding up the note ; * is
Mr. Basset married ? '
1 6 Quality Corner
* No, sir, Mr. Basset never married. Miss Thea is
his god-daughter. Her father and mother died when
she was a child, and Mr. Basset adopted her.'
' Oh. Who lives at Number Three ? '
* Miss Emily, sir. Miss Darnton. Her aunt, old
Mrs. Darnton, died a month ago, so Miss Emily is
alone now. The house is hers.'
' And Number Four? '
' Mr. Rudell, sir, the lawyer. Mrs. Rudell has her
brother staying there, a gentleman from London.'
The old housekeeper retired, and Cassilis fell to
idly wondering about the denizens of Number Two.
' Thea ' — a pretty name ; uncommon. Doubtless he
would float into their kindly peaceful lives, and out
again, lingering in their memory but as a passing
stranger. True, he had bought the practice, but in
these cases it often happens that there is little or no
practice to buy. He had drifted about the world for
ten years. It might be that he would drift again,
and Ringway become only a memory of cool peace.
He himself would be forgotten; he would not forget.
He never forgot. Loneliness is a great quickener of
the memory, and Cassilis was a lonely man. He
meant to stay in Ringway if he could. Already the
spell of the North was upon him.
The long June day drew to evening. The mellow
sunshine took a deeper gold, and in the lanes the
sandy track was all in shadow, while the hedges on
either side shone burnished emerald. The level rays
just tipped the ears of farmer Stretton's old white
mare as he drove slowly home, pondering many
things. First he thought of the cows, ever the chief
interest to a dairy farmer; then he reflected on the
A Study of Remorse 17
business he had done and the gossip he had heard,
and settled in his own mind how much of both he
should tell his wife. This was a complicated matter
to arrange, because Mrs. Stretton had also been to
market that morning, returning home early with a
friend; so her husband could not be sure how much
of the news had been imparted to her during those
early morning hours. In the midst of this problem
his eyes fell on a woman sitting on the hedge bank;
a comely woman of perhaps thirty — fair, blue-eyed,
fresh-complexioned, with smoothly banded brown
hair, and a general look of calm alertness. Farmer
Stretton noted with approval the simple cotton gown,
the black shawl and bonnet ; and, pulling up the mare,
he addressed the stranger : ' Art tha going far. Missis ? '
' I wur thinking o' going to Ringway,' she replied,
and the tones of her voice were sweet and womanly.
* Happen I could find work there. Fve walked o'er
fro' WofTendale, where I've left my box.'
' Ay, I see,' responded Stretton thoughtfully. He
was wondering why this pleasant-looking woman had
left her friends — why she was apparently so alone in
the world. Perceiving that she wore a wedding ring,
he concluded she was a widow. ' Happen hoo an' her
folks quarrelled o'er th' chap,' he reflected.
' I'm not afraid o' work,' the stranger went on. ' I
wur brought up on a farm, out Marbury way.'
As she spoke, a brilliant idea flashed into Stretton's
* Theer's a friend o' mine,' he said, ' a farmer — Abel
Gresty — an' a regular good sort too, as mout be glad
o' thee. His wife's dead, an' there's six little uns,
an' nobbut an' owd lass o' sixtv-five to look to 'em.
1 8 Quality Corner
He wur telling me to-day he wur fair moithered to
death. If tha likes to try th' place, I'll drive thee
o'er. 'Tis but a mile away,' pointing with his whip
over the hedge. ' My name's Stretton — William Stret-
ton, o' th' Yew Tree farm.'
' Thank yo',' she said simply, rising from the mossy
bank on which she sat. ' I'd like th' place well. I'd
be pleased to see to th' children.'
* Put thy foot on th' wheel, then. So — ,' holding
out his hand to assist her. She stepped deftly up
beside Stretton, and the old white mare plodded on,
shaking her ears in surprised remonstrance when un-
expectedly turned out of the lane into a road that
was certainly not the way home. It was called a road
by courtesy, but was merely a peaty track leading
down into the wide valley that lay below Ringway.
* 'Tis sweet to see th' country,' said the woman,
looking round with the air of a returning exile.
' Ay, it's noan like Woffendale, thank th' Lord ! '
responded Stretton. ' It fair beats me how folk con
live in o' that muck an' grime. But I reckon tha
couldna help thysen, Missis,' he added politely glanc-
ing towards the dark blur on the north-eastern horizon.
' I didna live in Woffendale,' she repHed, ' I only
got there this morning. I lived in Bramsall, nigh
Birmingham. But afore I wur wed, my home wur
' 'Tis pretty country about theer,' said Stretton.
' All my folks are dead,' resumed the stranger after
a moment's pause, 'or I'd ha' gone back home. So I
took a thought to bide hereabouts.'
Stretton nodded. He felt much compassion for
anyone compelled to the hardship of residence any-
A Study of Remorse 19
where out of sight of green fields; and also, as his
companion talked, a yet more brilliant idea dazzled
him. Why should not his friend Gresty marry this
good-looking widow? She was evidently quiet and
respectable; neither too young nor too old; a woman
alone in the world and poor, therefore likely to be
glad of so good a home as Gresty could offer; fond
of children and industrious. Why, the more Stretton
considered the matter the more desirable did the mar-
riage appear. He looked at the stranger again. De-
cidedly she was the wife for Gresty.
' I dunno as I wouldna wed her mysen if I wur want-
ing a missis,' thought Stretton as he whipped up the
mare past a little wood in whose green depths a belated
cuckoo was calling.
' Theer's th' farm,' he said aloud, pointing to a
cluster of buildings just beyond the wood. Truly,
the homestead looked a peaceful haven, and the peace
was reflected in the woman's eyes as she gazed upon it.
' 'Tis a pretty place fur a home,' she said.
' Ay, it is, an' Gresty looks after things well too,'
replied Stretton. ' Theer he is ! If tha'll hold th'
reins a minute, I'll get down an' speak to him.'
There was about the farm the sleepy stir of even-
ing. The cows were being driven up from the mead-
ows in that slow sauntering fashion which is so
restful to watch. There were yellow fluffy chickens
running about, and soft brown ducklings ; and the
six children all mixed up with the cows and chicks,
ducklings and dogs. The woman's eyes dwelt con-
tentedly on the scene. She must have been a hope-
ful creature, ready to let the dead past drop and be
quietly happy in the present, for her life had been
20 Quality Corner
hard and wretched for many years ; yet the face re-
tained its youthful freshness and the serenity that
seemed her chief characteristic. There was no shadow
in the blue eyes that so calmly met Gresty's brown
ones as he came forward after a brief conversation
with his friend.
' I'll be rarely pleased to ha' thee here, Missis,' he
said. ' I reckon we shallna quarrel about th' payment.
We'll talk it o'er bye-and-bye. Coom in an' set thee
down comfortable ; owd Martha '11 get thee a cup o'
tea. Th' owd lass'll be glad enow to ha' help wi' th'
little uns, an' so shall I.'
Thus June Heald became an inmate of the Moss
Farmer Stretton drove home feeling the glow of
satisfaction that so rarely follows doing good to one's
neighbours. The little adventure exhilarated him, and
he related it at length to his wife during their sub-
' So I've done two folks a good turn to-day,' he
observed when the meal was over and the story came
to an end.
' I'll see th' woman afore I say owt about it,' re-
plied his better half sententiously.
' Tha dunnot ask me whether hoo wur good-look-
ing or no,' he presently remarked between two whiflfs
of his pipe.
' I amna a fool,' retorted Mrs. Stretton with asperity.
* Tha wouldna ha' taken a' that trouble fur a woman as
wurna good-looking. I know thee men ! '
' Nay — nay,' with a deprecatory wave of the pipe.
' I know thee men ! ' repeated Mrs. Stretton firmly.
And no more was said about June Heald that night.
ALL the four houses of QuaHty Corner were alike
in size and shape, with long rooms running from
front to back, having windows at each end, one look-
ing into the street, the other on the garden. Entering
Number Two that evening. Cassilis was sensible of
the pervading brightness and fragrance. Colour and
the scent of pinks seemed everywhere ; and; what
comfort and repose ! His own abode was dingy in
the extreme, a contrast indeed to this drawing-room
of Basset's, with its gold-coloured walls above the
dark panelling, its soft salmon-pink draperies and
dark carpet. There were books and papers in plenty,
and comfortable chairs with fluffy cushions for tired
shoulders, one or two good pictures, several book-
cases ; but not an ornament anywhere save a few
valuable bronzes and a wide majolica bowl filled with
white pinks. Whether owing to the perfume of the
pinks, or the charm of the house, or the grace and
beauty of the girl who welcomed him, Cassilis felt
himself in an atmosphere of exhilarating friendliness.
When he entered the room Thea Basset was stand-
ing by the farther window, looking into the garden.
Hearing his step, she turned and came forward with
a swift movement, as a swallow turns on the silent rush
of his wings.
' I must introduce myself, Dr. Cassilis, but no
doubt you have heard of me already. Mr. Basset is
12 Quality Corner
my godfather. People call me his adopted daughter.
I prefer to say he is my adopted father. He will be
overcome with confusion when he finds you have ar-
rived before he is here to welcome you.'
' Perhaps,' said Cassilis, * my watch has sent me
here too early.'
* Oh, no ; it is Mr. Basset who is late. He is always
either too soon or the reverse. He says he believes
the proverb " Time was made for slaves," and he
therefore takes every opportunity of asserting his
She spoke with singular clearness and softness, and
with a musical ripple in her voice as of running water.
Where had Cassilis heard a voice that remotely, re-
sembled hers? And where had he seen that little
gesture of the flung-out hand with which she finished ?
It seemed oddly familiar. Yet he could not recall any-
one like this girl. Never elsewhere had he seen those
velvet-brown eyes with their long lashes so much darker
than the thick coils of brown hair; that delicate face
with its healthy pallor, red beneath the ivory — a pale-
ness that he thought lovelier than any rosiness. Her
gown, of some gauzy material — was the colour green
or blue ? — fell about her in floating folds, and was
fastened at the throat by a narrow bar of opals. To
Cassilis's fancy, these milk-white gems, each with a
spark of fire in its heart, seemed peculiarly appropriate
to the wearer. No other jewels would suit her; no
others would give the impression that she herself gave,
of pallor and vivid life. Again Cassilis told himself
that he was positive he had seen no one even remotely
resembling her; and at this moment his host came in.
Septimus Basset was a short, stout, fresh-com-
A Study of Remorse 23
plexioned man, with snow-white hair and kindly blue
' I must apologise for my late appearance, Dr.
Cassilis,' and he shook his guest's hand with extreme
cordiality. ' Has my god-daughter made an excuse
for me ? I cannot think of one for myself.'
' I have been told you object to the slavery of
punctuality,' said Cassilis.
Basset nodded. ' That is my view. It reduces a
man to a piece of machinery. There are times, how-
ever, when it is a duty, and this is one. I was de-
tained, or rather I detained myself, giving advice.
There is an extraordinary fascination about that same
giving of advice. One could go on for ever. It is
only when one is the advised that one takes to one's
' Do people ever follow your advice, Dr. Cassilis ? '
* Sometimes. But it is a perpetual surprise to me
when they do.'
' You have the advantage that they cannot run
away,' said Basset as dinner was announced.
The dining-room was coloured like a pale violet.
Some fine etchings and an old Venetian mirror deco-
rated the walls, which were two shades of lilac above
the panelling, the draperies being a warm amethyst. A
silver bowl filled with white pinks stood in the centre
of the table, and Cassilis remarked on their old-world
' I see your garden from my windows, and it looks
like a bees' paradise,' he said. ' Now in mine I
behold only huge prickly gooseberry bushes labelled
" Lancashire Lad " and " Thumper." '
24 Quality Corner
' Those gooseberries were the pride of your pred-
ecessor's heart.' This from Thea.
* But they are really very monotonous from the
landscape point of view. And besides, there is such
an air of aggressive virtue about a gooseberry bush.
It is so oppressively useful. There is absolutely noth-
ing to be said against it. It is the Aristides of plants ;
therefore I wish to ostracise it. You perceive the in-
stinctive ingratitude of fallen man ! '
' Why not banish the gooseberries to the farther
end of the garden ? '
' Oh, I should know they were there.'
'Do you find the scent of our pinks exhilarating?'
Cassilis paused a moment : ' I think so. There is
a country cheeriness and peace about the perfume ; a
sort of Boyhood's Home, you know.'
' Exactly. Now do you not think that perfumes
are unwisely neglected in modern medicine? I have
a theory on the subject. I consider them a great heal-
ing and educational force. To begin with, all healing
resides in herbs ; is not that so ? '
' Yes, I agree with you there. Undoubtedly, if
we took the trouble, we should find in the vegetable
kingdom a cure for wellnigh every disease; only, we
do not take the trouble.'
Thea turned her dark eyes upon him : ' Why do
you not take the trouble ? '
* Because there are no substantial rewards for
botanical research, and where the pay is, there will the
heart be also.'
' Still, the general neglect is remarkable,' observed
A Study of Remorse 25
' It is. But at present we prefer the contents of
the Macbeth cauldron, and to doubt the efficacy of
the brew is to be a voice crying in the wilderness.'
' That voice was heard,' said Thea.
' Because it cried in a natural wilderness. Now-
adays the wilderness is that hopelessly deaf waste, a
' You think all the units of the crowd are deaf ? '
' Or wish to be. Listening is fatiguing. So is
thinking. Perhaps, however, I ought rather to say
that I am a man who has never done anything and who
never will do anything."
Thea smiled, a sudden illumination that sparkled
in her eyes before it reached her lips. Cassilis saw
that she did not in the least believe him, and he was
pleased that she did not. A glow as of renewed
youth warmed his veins. Years ago people had
believed in him, had predicted great things of him;
but he passed into the vast army of the unknown
fighters, the men who are unnoticed in the turmoil.
He had forgotten, or thought he had forgotten, the
gladness of the May-time, till beneath the magic of
Thea Basset's smiling incredulity something of that
gladness sprang up again, as though once more he had
the world before him.
Basset surveyed his guest with obvious satisfaction.
* I can see the pinks have a beneficial effect on you,'
he remarked : ' They are excellent for the table, as
they stimulate conversation. Some perfumes rather
tend to stifle it. I am convinced that almost every
ailment of mind and body could be successfully treated
by means of suitable odours. Certainly many could be
prevented by the use of them ! '
26 Quality Corner
' You would smoke them out after the fashion of
* Partly. In fact, that, like other ancient practices,
is a survival of a truth which has become perverted in
the course of centuries. We do not realise how much
our emotions depend on our sense of smell. We
know already we can produce langour, intoxication,
frenzy, death, by different scents ; why not other
states? The slothful could be roused by pungent
odours, the irascible soothed by gentle ones, such as
* But suppose the irascible man swore at the peas ? '
' Ah,' rejoined Basset with a sigh, ' that brings me
to the question of education. Our present methods
are lamentable. I would stimulate the love of study
by thyme, scent of thyme, always a favourite among
the Greeks, you will remember. Negligence would
be checked by other herbs. Of course I am aware
the scheme sounds a little vague, but you understand
the general principle ? '
' Perfectly.' Cassilis felt considerably entertained
by this discovery of his host's hobby. Most hobbies
are entertaining, so long as they are not political;
and this particular one was quite a new kind, a gentle
palfrey that made one think ' Time had run back and
fetched the Age of Gold ' into this present century of
shot and steel.
' The idea of the scent education is delightful,'
said Thea. ' The solitary drawback, as far as I can
see, is that it would only be effectual with sensitive
natures. Tommy So-and-so has lost his way among
the Greek verbs ; fetch the asafoetida and hold it under
his nose. Now a refined Tommy So-and-so might
A Study of Remorse 27
have sufficient objection to the punishment to induce
him to learn his Greek better. But the average
Tommy So-and-so would not mind the asafoetida in the
least. I have even a horrid suspicion that he would
rather enjoy it.'
' With the probable increase of refinement, I should
hope for this drawback to disappear,' said her god-
' Yes,' doubtfully. ' But for many years I fear
another vegetable remedy will continue to be the most
' And what is that ? '
* The cane. Daddy.'
Cassilis laughed outright, and so did Basset.
' You see, Dr. Cassilis,' he said, ' I have not suc-
ceeded in impressing my god-daughter with the cor-
rectness of my theory.'
' Oh yes, you have,' she cried, ' the theory is all
right. The worst of it is that I am always agreeing
with all sorts of absolutely perfect theories, but when
I begin to imagine them being put in practice diffi-
culties arise. It is evident I am not a born reformer,
or I should never perceive any difficulties.'
' There certainly seems a perverse spirit of nega-
tion everywhere,' said Cassilis. ' The more gorgeous
our schemes, the more chaotic their results : And we
recur in despair to the primitive methods, a kick and
a push and an occasional sugar-plum now and then —
Dame Nature's methods.'
' Dame Nature is really a very step-motherly per-
son at times,' murmured his host.
' She is. But we don't seem to do any better.'
* I am afraid vou are feelina: the burden of uni-
28 Quality Corner
versal human nature. That modern disease needs
prompt treatment — rosemary or thyme or lemon-
verbena. The scent of blossoming lime is also ex-
cellent for the complaint, which is very prevalent
nowadays. Believe me, my dear sir, it is no use
troubling oneself with human nature beyond one's
own individuaUty. That is quite enough human
nature for any one man or woman to grapple with.
Beyond it, one merely repeats the forlorn attempts of
Sisyphus ; the stone rolls back every time.'
' Are you not contradicting your own words ? '
Cassilis was feeling more and more amused.
' Not at all — not at all. Help people, by all means,
but don't think about them too much If you do,
your own natural joy of life will be overclouded, to the
detriment of the world. This age is suffering from
the want of natural joyousness. The century's sense
of smell is out of order,' Basset continued earnestly;
' that is what is the matter with it. Too much gas and
tobacco, too little sunshine and wild thyme.'
' We have undoubtedly travelled beyond Falstaff's
definition of riotous living,' said Cassilis. ' It is no
longer unusual to hear the chimes at midnight. It
would be more unusual to hear them at any other
Basset took up a white pink with a thoughtful air.
* Of course, anyone who makes an eflfort to heal
humanity is a terrible nuisance. I feel that myself.
Therefore I cultivate as far as possible a certain light-
heartedness, and recommend it to others. You know
the Irish saying, " Take life aisy, and if ye cannot
take it aisy, take it as aisy as ye can." I am con-
vinced that wisely chosen perfumes contribute mate-
A Study of Remorse 29
rially to the light-heartedness we now so rarely see —
light-heartedness as distinguished from boisterous
enjoyment or feverish craving for amusement.'
' You mean " the laughter that rose up like a foun-
' Exactly ; bubblingf water in the sunshine. We
do our best here in the Comer. Have you seen your
remaining neighbours, Miss Darnton and the Ru-
* No as yet they are only names to me. I have
made one acquaintance — Mr. Galloway. He sent for
me this afternoon.'
' Ah, Galloway's sciatica. Gloomy house, is it not ?
We are old friends and wrangle perpetually. I don't
like his dinners and he does not care for mine. When
you dine with him, you will understand my objec-
tions. As for the Corner, we have promised to take
you in next door after dinner — Number Three —
Miss Darnton's. She is a cousin of the Occlestons.
You will probably see Tony Occleston there. George,
the elder brother, is married and lives at Outwood,
a pretty place — his own — two miles off, beyond
Ringway woods. His wife is a charming woman.
She has some money — lucky for George Occleston in
these days. There are two boys, nice little fellows.
Sure to be patients of yours.'
* I hardly know how to answer that,' responded
Cassilis. ' If I say " I hope so," the remark sounds
unfeeling. If I say, " I hope not," I imply a doubt of
my own powers. Perhaps it would be safest to ob-
serve that T shall be delighted to make the Occlestons'
acquaintance under any circumstances.'
' They all belong in a way to Quality Corner,' said
30 Quality Corner
Thea, ' and Emily Darnton's house is the rallying
point for the whole Corner. That is partly because she
now lives alone, her aunt having died recently. So
we feel it our duty to preserve her from dulness.'
' The Rudells are sure to be there,' Basset went
on. ' Mrs. Rudell is a comparative stranger in the
Corner. She married Rudell about a year ago, to
everybody's surprise. He had been a widower so long
that no one ever supposed he would take a second
wife. I think she finds the place dull. By the way,
her brother is staying with them, Mark Parfitt, the
artist. He is doing a big fresco in the Woffendale
Town Hall. Do you know him ? '
' Only by repute.'
* I don't like him,' continued Basset. ' He seems
to me almost as unpleasant as his pictures. So ter-
ribly indoor. Quite without air — pure air. His oil,
the midnight oil. His water-colour, boiled water;
nothing in it. But he makes money. Therefore he
is a great artist. That is the touchstone nowadays.
Not, are you gold? but, have you gold? Or at least,
have you enough to make people think that you have
Cassilis was willing to go anywhere, ready to be
interested in anybody. This was his habitual mental
attitude. He was incapable of being bored — a char-
acteristic most often found among those who are
isolated wanderers through existence, waifs and
strays along life's highway. The beggar is more
ready to converse than the millionaire; and Cassilis,
drifting hither and thither as chance directed, was
friendly and genial as any poverty-stricken wayfarer.
His fellow-creatures were always more or less enter-
A Study of Remorse 31
taining; just now they were more entertaining than
usual. Life seemed warmer since he had entered
that old house with its scent and sheen of colour,
and met Thea Basset's dark eyes, and felt that subtle
charm of manner that was so strangely familiar.
His host, too, interested him — so curious a mingling
of kindly eccentricity and shrewd common sense.
Also, Basset's dinners were very good. Careless and
semi-ascetic though Cassilis might be as regarded his
own daily food, he was not ignorant of the difference
between a good dinner and a bad one. A man must
be wretched indeed, or hopelessly a churl, if he does
not find the world pleasanter after a dinner such as
Basset was wont to set before a guest. Everything
was pleasant to James Cassilis just then. Outside in
the quiet street the sunset streamed from the west in
level orange radiance. Through the other window
came cool sweet airs from the blossoming garden,
which lay in partial shadow — luminous shadow hardly
to be called shade. This soft grey shadow deepened,
and suddenly into the stillness fell the quick patter-
ing of summer rain, a sparkling shower laced by the
sunbeams. It ceased well-nigh as suddenly as it
came; a thrush began to sing, and the western glory
' " 'Tis an elfin storm from faeryland," ' quoted
Thea, with laughing eyes and the swift gesture of the
open hand that Cassilis seemed to know so well.
' It must be,' he responded gravely. ' Nothing less
can account for such a freak of the elements.'
' Troll-weather — that is what it is.' Thea continued.
' Long ago a spell was laid on Ringway, and has
never been taken off, so the weather is always Troll-
32 Quality Corner
weather. Here we have no definitely marked morning,
noon and night; but green, shining, showery days —
fairy green; soft rain and sunshine falling through
green leaves on green moss and grey lichen, with
west winds that blow off the sea, and grey clouds like
the lichen, and blue mists, and over all a rainbow
tangle of sun and shower. That is Troll-weather.
Do you think you will like living in a rainbow, Dr.
Cassilis ? '
' I shall like it very much,' he replied.
* Yes,' said Basset carelessly, ' Ringway wears " the
fairies' fatal green." '
NUMBER THREE, Quality Corner, was briskly
modern in the general effect of its rooms. The
house had not the peculiar atmosphere of scholarly
peace that distinguished Number Two, but its climate
was friendly and vivacious. Its mistress and owner
was likewise friendly and vivacious — a handsome girl
of five-and-twenty, with eyes and hair of a curious light
chestnut, and a pleasantly decisive manner. ' I am so
glad to see you, Dr. Cassilis,' she said. ' A stranger in
the land — I mean, in the Corner — is always such an
excitement for all of us ; and Dr. Smith gave us no
chance of gratifying our natural curiosity. He was
quite a hermit, and a hermit in the Comer is an
anomaly with which we are not able to cope. Appar-
ently his neighbours did not afford him any amuse-
ment, and what was worse, he did not amuse us.'
* I take the deepest interest in the Corner/ said
Cassilis, and he spoke the truth.
' How nice of you. Emily, please explain to Dr.
Cassilis that I am Number Four.'
The speaker was Mrs. Rudell. As Susette Parfitt
she had been a schoolfellow of Emily Darnton, had
visited her, and to everyone's astonishment, had mar-
ried the elderly lawyer. Ringway bored her terribly,
so did her husband ; but she had gained what she
wanted, a home. Now her one desire was to get back
to town, and she would gladly have persuaded Rudell
34 Quality Corner
to live in London. On this point, however, he was in-
exorable. No power on earth would induce him to
leave Ringway. So she turned her attention to finding
a wife for her brother Mark. If he had a house in
town, she could run up whenever she felt inclined.
For which reason he had better marry someone she
knew, and whom she could manage. Susette Rudell
felt no doubt as to her own ability to manage Thea
Basset when once Thea was married to a man of
Mark's temper ; and Basset was rich — there would be
money. Of course Mark needed money. The com-
mission that brought him down to Ringway was really
most convenient, enabling him to look round and make
up his mind without his visit being in any way con-
spicuous. Meanwhile, she herself was pleased to dis-
play to Ringway the tall narrow-chested man who now
stood beside her chair, a half-open book in his hand —
easy, careless, superciliously observant.
' Dr. Cassilis, Mrs. Rudell is your last neighbour,'
said Emily. ' Perhaps you already know Mr. Parfitt? '
* By celebrity, certainly ! ' The two men bowed, their
glances crossing with a quick flash as of steel, the
beginning of their duel, of which, when it ended, none
could say who was the victor. In that moment Cassilis
saw — not Emily Darnton's drawing-room, but a dingy
street lit by lightning and furnace flame, and a stranger
answering a question addressed to him from a window.
For ten years — such long years — Cassilis had not seen
that face, and even then had only seen it once. Yet
instantly he recognised Mark Parfitt as the man who
had replied to his aimless question that night. The
ten years had not altered Parfitt greatly. He was not
so weedy-looking, had filled out a little, and his hair,
A Study of Remorse 35
always scanty, had worn off his forehead in a way that
his dearest friends called baldness. But there were
the same sloping shoulders, the same awkward carriage
of the head, the same cold sharp eyes set too closely-
He looked prosperous, and he w-as. His life was
altogether smooth and successful — that is to say, he
was one of the devil's own husks of humanity. There
was no kernel in him whatever, and chaff flies high.
It can ride on the lightest breeze when the good wheat
falls earthward and is trodden under foot of men.
Parfitt was neither good grain nor bad ; he was simply
the husk, and he flew high and looked solid, and was
admired accordingly. For the rest, he was exactly
ten years the worse. A decade ago he might possibly
have done a stray kindness, provided the doing thereof
gave him no trouble and some slight amusement. Now,
the first flush of youth being gone, Mark had become
the average unpleasant human being who bears you no
particular malice for any particular thing, but a sort of
general malice for being what you are, and will quietly
trip you up if opportunity offers — and it usually does.
A sudden look of puzzled surprise came into Parfitt's
eyes as he met Cassilis's glance, and the latter saw that
the recognition was not so perfect as his own. The
artist did not remember when or where they had en-
countered each other.
' He will soon recollect that,' thought Cassilis, as
his new hostess introduced him to Mr. Rudell, a small
man with neat features and a bald head.
* Do you do anything in this line, Dr. Cassilis ? ' he
asked, holding out an enamelled snuff-box. 'No?
Ah, I believe old Sol Ingers and myself will continue
^6 Quality Corner
to be the only snuff-takers in Ringway. Queer old
fellow, Sol. Estimable in many ways. You'll see
' I have already made his acquaintance, and have
been offered a pinch out of the historic snuff-box.'
* You must have made a good impression. Did you
* Then your practice is assured. Old Sol will rake
up every sick man for miles round and send him to
you. He never forgave Smith for refusing snuff and
having no political opinions. He used to go about tell-
ing the women that Smith's physic produced wrinkles.
No wonder Smith couldn't get on ! '
Cassilis laughed. ' No doubt they would prefer Mr.
' Ah, you mean Basset's medical and educational
theories. Yes, when a man has no occupation he
chooses a hobby, generally an unmanageable one, and
its antics amuse him — and his friends.'
' I am disposed to agree with him to a certain extent,'
' So are we all, but we stop half way. We shirk the
ditches. Basset takes them flying.'
' Dr. Cassilis,' said Thea, waving her hand towards
a swarthy bright-eyed young fellow sitting beside her,
' this is Anthony Occleston. Emily has forgotten
* I don't live in the Corner,' said Occleston, looking
at Cassilis with friendly eyes, ' but I belong to it in a
way. We were all brought up together, you see, in
Ringway or thereabouts, so we are pretty much like
A Study of Remorse 37
' Did I hear Rudell scoffing at my theories ? ' en-
quired Basset. He had been talking to Parfitt.
' I, too, am an unbeHever/ said Mrs. Rudell. ' You
once advised me to sniff mixed pickles, Mr. Basset.'
' Impossible, Mrs. Rudell ! '
* Well, perhaps it was nasturtiums. I ought to sniff
nasturtiums. But they are pickles, you know.'
' I may have observed that the scent of nasturtiums
is of the nature of a tonic, and has the advantage of
' A bunch of them would have been useful after that
lecture we attended this afternoon,' remarked Occles-
' Why did we go to it ? ' Emily suddenly demanded.
' For the usual human reason — because we had noth-
ing better to do,' said Parfitt.
' What was it ? ' asked Thea. ' And where ? In
Emily answered :
' Yes, in Woffendale. I was there this afternoon,
as you know, and I met Tony. Then, at the station,
we two met Mrs. Rudell and Mr. Parfitt, and all four
of us missed the Ringway train. So we strolled into
the nearest place of amusement we could find. It
was a lecture hall, and a man was lecturing on the
Destiny of the Human Race. He was an extraor-
dinary creature, positively grotesque. Wasn't he,
' He said he was a self-made man,' Occleston re-
plied, with his wholesome boyish laugh, ' and upon my
soul, I beheve it. He looked like it, poor chap ! '
' But what was to be the destiny of the human
race ? '
38 Quality Corner
* Tony ! ' cried Emily, ' come and help me with the
As Anthony rose obediently, Parfitt lounged across
the room, and dropped into the seat beside Thea that
Occleston had just vacated.
' The destiny appeared to be a vague one,' said Mark,
answering her question. ' I am, however, under the
impression that we were all to be presidents.'
' Not presidents,' Emily corrected, ' Members of Par-
' With all our sins,' remarked CassiHs, ' I do not
think we have deserved such a fate as that.'
' It seems to me,' Thea observed meditatively, ' that
lecturers need a course of instruction themselves.'
' Thea,' said Emily solemnly, ' when our teachers of
the various professions attain their desires, your fate
is certain. People who criticise their rulers will be
' Oh, I dare say the less zealous among them would
give me the choice between banishment and adopting
the new religion.'
' What is the new religion ? ' enquired Cassilis.
* None at all,' with a sudden flash of laughter in her
eyes ; ' and as my mind is not constructed for change, I
should seek refuge in a desert, if such a thing remains.'
* Are you not a little narrow ? ' Parfitt's manner was
at once confidential and superior, and Thea felt an-
' I suppose so,' she replied indifferently, ' like a
Cassilis met her glance and laughed, ' Of all the
extraordinary comparisons ! ' *
' I like a good sword.'
A Study of Remorse 39
' So do I, It is one of the three perfect things.'
Then, in response to her look of enquiry, he added:
* You know man has made three things so perfect that
they cannot be improved — the sword, the viohn, and —
I forget the third.'
' Try to remember,' she urged. ' That interests me.'
' I will try hard, but I am afraid the third perfection
has vanished from my memory.'
' Perhaps I can think of it myself. Is it lace ? '
' I cannot tell. It may be. I am not sure. Is it
possible to surpass old lace ? '
Parfitt sat and listened and looked on with his usual
impassive face. Inwardly he was angry, and his anger
was cold, which is an unpleasant form of the complaint.
He was no fool. He knew when he encountered his
betters, but he was not pleased thereby. He perceived,
with that same cold anger, the charm of this stranger ;
the minghng of perfect comprehension and sympa-
thetic gentleness which was the reason Cassilis made
warm friends, and enemies equally to be relied upon.
For every good gift, like the magnet, has its repellent
as well as its attracting pole, and in each case, like
draws like. Ten years ago Parfitt had been drawn
toward the face of the student — the dreamer. Now,
being ten years the harder, and the student having
changed into this calm-eyed observant man, Mark
Parfitt felt no attraction, but the reverse, while he won-
dered where he had seen that face before.
' A country doctor, and poor,' he said to himself.
' Shabby dress-clothes. And he doesn't care, either.
Puts them on well, though. I seem to know him.
It's not the sort of face one forgets.' Thus he mused
as he noticed with increasing annoyance the easy
40 Quality Corner
friendliness that seemed to have sprung up between
Thea Basset and the new tenant of Number One.
Parfitt had contemplated the possibihty of finding a
wealthy wife during this visit of his to the North. He
did not particularly wish to marry, but even a suc-
cessful artist finds the making of money a wearisome
task. For instance, this fresco in Woffendale Town
Hall was profitable certainly, but it kept him down
here in the country, which he detested. So bored
was he that he seriously thought of freeing himself
for ever from the necessity of accepting such com-
missions by marrying some well-dowered WofTendale
girl. But the two or three whose fortunes were large
were not themselves attractive. Parfitt was acutely
sensitive to ridicule. His wife must not bounce, must
not be apple-cheeked, neither must she be hopelessly
insignificant. Thea Basset, though she might have
less money, was undeniably beautiful. Moreover, she
had been brought up by a man of culture. Basset
might be eccentric, but he was a scholar and a gen-
tleman ; and his adopted daughter could be transplanted
to London without Parfitt feeling apprehensive as to
what she might possibly say or do. He reflected that
he really might do worse than marry Thea Basset.
His sister had told him that Basset was richer than
he seemed, for he did not spend half his income and had
been steadily saving for years. Altogether, the notion
appeared an excellent one.
However, the artist was in no hurry. He was
not quite sure that the money would compensate for
the misfortune of being married. Perhaps he might
have given up the idea if Thea had responded at all
A Study of Remorse 41
to his cool advances. But she remained absolutely
indifferent, with a chill indifference that left no doubt
on his mind. Therefore he looked at her again and
again, almost resolving to marry her because of that
same indifference. In town he would probably have
forgotten her in a week. Here, in the green stillness
of Ringway, his thoughts dwelt angrily on her beauty
and her elusiveness. For there was about her a singu-
lar elusive quality, like the curious halo seen on dewy
grass in moonlight — always just beyond. Stoop to
look closely and it is gone. Walk on, and it glitters
softly like an elf-lantern held before one's feet, and
one must needs follow where it leads. In like manner
Thea Basset seemed to be always just beyond, and
perhaps in this elusiveness lay her greatest charm.
And her beauty? Yes, that was as unique as her
charm. Who would have expected to find in this
out-of-the-way place a girl like warm ivory, with eyes
deep as midnight, and dusky hair with gold glints in
it. Absurd that such a face should be left in the
provinces. How much would Basset give his god-
daughter on her marriage? Parfitt wished he knew.
He did not doubt his own power to induce Thea to
marry him. ' Women never know their own minds,'
he reflected contemptuously ; and her dislike of him
would give zest to what he called his ' training of her '
after marriage. For like all persons of his type, he was
resolved upon destroying, or at least suppressing, the
personality that had drawn his notice. There is a
splendid butterfly ; catch it. Well, what are you going
to do with it? Why, pull off its wings, of course.
There! it is only a common grub, after all. And the
42 Quality Corner
wings ? Oh, they are nothing. Only a thin membrane
and a httle grey fluff — look ! Certainly, they are noth-
All these ideas had been simmering in Parfitt's
mind before the advent of James Cassilis. There
had also existed an obstacle to the artist's Alnaschar-
like plans, namely, Anthony Occleston. Between
him and Parfitt flourished a fine healthy animosity.
Occleston greatly admired his old playmate Thea,
and his honest affection made him sharp-sighted
enough to perceive the drift of Mark's vague inten-
tions. Even without this incentive to discord, the
two men differed too essentially ever to have agreed.
Tony nursed his wrath and counted the months that
must elapse before the Woffendale fresco was finished.
Parfitt met him with supercilious ease; Occleston
could hardly prove a serious rival. But when Cassilis
appeared on the scene the situation altered. He was
not a man whom it was possible to ignore, and his
instant popularity was easily seen. Evidently Basset
liked him, Thea smiled upon him, Anthony Occleston
was prepared to admire him, even though Thea so
smiled. This Parfitt clearly saw as he sat in Emily
Darnton's drawing-room that night, looking about
him with cold unsmiling eyes and inwardly debating
whether he would definitely enter the lists against
Occleston, and possibly against Cassilis. Perhaps
the grapes were not worth plucking. He would not
acknowledge that they hung too high. How much
money would Basset give the girl ? She was beautiful,
certainly, and there would be the amusement of tam-
ing a woman who disliked him. He would enjoy
plucking off those shimmering wings, destroying that
A Study of Remorse 43
odd quality of seeming always beyond reach. And
through his thoughts ran ever the puzzle, where had
he seen Cassilis ? — where ? — and when ?
It was about half-past eleven when the Corner
dispersed, Tony Occleston grumbling because he was
obliged to return to Woffendale by the twelve train.
' Got to see a fellow on business at five, o'clock
to-morrow morning. Such an hour ! But he's off
abroad, that's why. Pity to lose my walk home. It's
such a jolly night.'
This remark of Tony's put an idea into Thea's
' Emily,' she said when all the others had gone
and only Basset, Cassilis. and herself were standing
at the door of Number Three, ' this is the mystic
Eve of St. John. Let us go up the hill and gather
fern-seed in Mannannen's garden.'
Emily shook her head. ' I wish I could, but I am
really too tired with walking about Woffendale this
' It is the only night in the year when you can
gather fern-seed,' protested Thea. ' It falls at mid-
night. Will you come, Dr. Cassilis ? '
' With pleasure. I have never gathered fern-seed.'
* Neither have I,' laughed Emily. ' Bring me some,
And she closed her door. Basset opened his with
' Come in, Cassilis,' he said. ' You had better put
on a cloak, Thea.'
' Yes, I meant to do so. I will not be a minute.'
She disappeared, and Basset took up a parcel that
had come for him.
44 Quality Corner
' Ah, this is the pamphlet I wanted. I think I will
sit down and read it now.'
Here Thea returned, having thrown over her gown
a long cloak of dove-coloured silk with a hood that
she drew over her head.
' What an elfin garment ! ' said Cassilis.
* Is it not ? ' she replied gaily. * Surely you would
not have me gather fern-seed in a modern hat with a
dead bird on it ? This cloak might be Titania's, made
of grey cobweb. Now, Daddy, are you ready ? '
Basset was eagerly turning over the leaves of the
* My dear, I should like to read this. Can you not
go with Cassilis ? '
' Very well. Come along, Dr. Cassilis and I will
show you a magic garden by starlight.'
SO Thea and Cassilis went out into the dim blue
night, walking slowly up the road. There were
still lights in most of the houses about the market-
place, and Quality Corner was brilliant, every house
brightly illuminated except Number One, which
showed only a feeble glimmer in the hall.
* My abode presents a most dismal appearance,'
said Cassilis, glancing back. ' I must tell my house-
keeper to put more lights about, even if I am not at
' People are accustomed to seeing it rather dark,'
said Thea. ' Dr. Smith was also a solitary bachelor.'
' So is Miss Damton a solitary bachelor. My house
shall look as cheerful as Miss Damton's.'
The hill on which Ringway stood was a merciful
elevation: it reared itself starward by a reasonable
slope that could be mounted in leisurely fashion, with-
out thought or effort; and thus strolling, Cassilis per-
ceived on his first night in Ringway the peculiar
quality of the air. It was of a cool, moist, velvety soft-
ness, with a scarcely perceptible forest scent in it,
as though breathing from spaces of wet moss and fern.
Yet how dry the road was, despite the brief shower
that evening. Cassilis remarked on this.
' You will always find it so,' replied Thea. * Most
of the hill is sand, and what is not sand is peat. Per-
haps that is why the rain here never seems to chill,
46 Quality Corner
though, as I told you, we live in a perpetual rainbow-
shower. Or perhaps the real cause is the fairy spells
that hold Ringway in their grasp. Remember this is
Midsummer Eve, and speak respectfully of the Troll
' I begin to think I am walking with one,' look-
ing at the hooded figure in glimmering grey beside
She laughed. ' Who knows ? Are you afraid of
coming with me ? '
' Not in the least.'
They were now nearly at the top of the hill. Be-
hind them the road stretched dimly down to Quality
Corner, where the lights sparkled faintly in the dis-
tance. On either side were dark hedges and fields,
with scattered houses looming darkly against the sky.
From the gardens came a puff of mignonette, a puff of
lily-scent ; then the olive-black line of Ringway woods
rose before them, and the forest odours of moss and
fern again filled the soft warm night. Over the woods,
low in the south-west, Antares blazed in the Scorpion's
' What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning
wild-fowl ? ' inquired Thea.
' " That the soul of our grandam might haply in-
habit a bird," ' replied Cassilis promptly.
' I am glad you know your Shakespeare. Well,
like Malvolio, I think more nobly of the soul. But
were I a Pythagorean I should hope to become an
owl on summer nights like this, that I might enjoy
the dewy darkness and listen to the unaccustomed
sounds. Night is the time when the earth talks to
itself, and I like to hear it. Also, I like the stars.
A Study of Remorse 47
Do you see the Scorpion's Heart over there? — just
above the trees.'
' Antares ? Yes. The red star of summer. It is
Then he turned to look at his companion's face
by the Hght of the Scorpion's Heart and other stars,
but starshine is dim, and the grey-clad figure beside
him appeared shadowy, elf-like, in the gloom. He
felt rather than saw the lustre of her eyes; still more
he noticed the rippling cadences of her voice, ' soft as
running water at night.'
Youth was returning to him, the youth that he had
' We are not going into the woods,' said that won-
derful voice, ' but on the hillside. This is the way.'
' This ' was a lane turning off the road northwards,
with hedges and trees on either side, the interlacing
branches forming a canopy so dense that no ray of
starlight pierced the obscurity. Cassilis could not see
the ground whereon he walked. It was soft to the
tread and sloped rapidly. Then he ran into the hedge
and a startled bird flew out.
' Where are you. Dr. Cassilis ? ' enquired the melo-
dious voice, this time with laughter in its tones. ' You
are waking all the birds ! The lane is dark and the
moss slippery, but we shall be out on the hillside in a
' Oh, the lane is moss-paven, is it ? I thought it was
too velvety for grass.'
' Everything is mossy here,' said Thea, as they
emerged from the leafy tunnel. ' Come round this cor-
ner — there ! Now listen ! '
They were standing a little way down the hill-
48 Quality Corner
side, facing north-west and looking over a wide dusky
valley that spread grey and olive under the violet-
blue of the sky. Behind, meadows rose steeply to the
woods ; in front, meadows sloped downwards, all grey,
blurred, and shadowy, bounded by deeper shadows
that were hedges. Farther away, yet deeper shadows
lay on the olive-greyness — copses, thickets, farm-
house nestling among trees ; and farther still, the olive-
darkness melting into the blue. To the left ran the
lane, pale in the night, with a few cottages at a little
distance , their windows dark under the eaves ; gnome-
dwellings they looked at this hour — low, indistinct,
half-hidden in leafage. A sinking crescent moon hung
in the west, vividly reflected in a sheet of water —
a silver point of light in the distance.
' Listen ! ' repeated Thea. ' This is the time when
the spring talks loudest.'
The night was very still and full of scent. Cassilis
fancied he must be standing on thyme; then a wan-
dering breeze brought from the meadows the sweet
fresh smell of ripening grass, and from the hedges
the breath of honeysuckle. He listened, and heard a
liquid gurgle that seemed to come from the roots of an
old thorn close beside him. It paused and whispered,
then laughed and whispered again, all in singing rip-
ples — was it a primaeval Thea ?
' Is it a Dryad ? ' he asked.
' It is a little spring that rises below the hawthorn
and flows away down the hill. By day one can hardly
hear it, but at night it is almost a living thing.'
* Tell me some more,' said Cassilis. * This place is
bewitched. I feel it. Tell me more.'
Perhaps the place was not so much", bewitched as
A Study of Remorse 49
was Cassilis himself. He had always been so gentle,
grave, and patient that people had unconsciously
treated him as a man older than he really was ; girls
had appealed to him — relied upon him as on an elder
brother. Thea Basset alone had regarded him as a
comrade. There was exhilaration in her presence,
in the oddness of standing beside her at midnight on
this wild hillside. The very dimness of the owl-light
gave strangeness to the charm of the scarcely visible
figure in its rustling grey garments, rustling that
might be only the rustling of the leaves. He knew
how brilliant were the eyes, how lovely the face that
he could not see for the folds of the hood.
She pointed towards the silver sparkle of the sink-
ing moon on the distant water. ' Do you think that
is fern-seed? It is said to shine like silver when it
falls. Perhaps earth-clocks are wrong, and it is past
midnight and the fern-seed has fallen.'
' Doubtless that is the fern-seed shining,' he replied.
* It always shines too far away, always beyond our
reach. But you possess one of its gifts, for you walk
* Did I not tell you I was a fairy ? Now look
down there, straight down below us. That pale line
is an old road to Wofifendale. One night, a hundred
and fifty years ago, armed men rode along it ; there
were many Cheshire and Lancashire men " out in the
forty-five," if you know what that means ? ' interroga-
' Solomon Ingers was good enough to explain the
phrase to me this morning. Is this history you are
telling me? '
' No, it is fact. Well, every man of the troop was
^o Quality Corner
killed. But the Ringway people say that they are
often seen returning. They ride onward like a wave,
with glints of steel here and there.'
' Surely/ said CassiHs meditatively, ' the latter part
of your story belongs to history, not fact.'
' To both. For there are glancing lights to be seen
down there sometimes. Perhaps the gleams are star-
reflections in the puddles, perhaps the Ringway men
returning. Who shall say ? '
Thea paused a moment, and the little spring
whispered and rippled and the night wind stirred the
' I believe it all,' her listener protested, ' I believe
everything ! '
' There are other and older stories of the hillside,'
she continued. ' You are right in thinking it be-
witched. Do you see a dark Hne in the north-west?
That is a low hill called the Ridge, and on it lies buried
a mighty wizard, Mannannen Mac-y-Leir. It is said
he had a magic garden here, and that this hillside is
therefore still under the enchantment of Mannannen's
'What is their eflfect?'
' Oh many things. Strange plants grow at mid-
night, blossom, and die in an hour. Some are good,
some evil ; and as people do not know which is which
they are afraid of gathering them.'
* Even if they ever see them? '
' Even when they see them,' Thea corrected gravely.
' Another legend says that not Mannannen but Canute
is buried on the Ridge. A third tradition, and the
one I like best, says that neither Mannannen nor
Canute lies there, but a mightier Ruler than either,
A Study of Remorse 51
a king to whom all men once came for justice. He
is still believed to ride about the country between
here and the Ridge from sunset till dawn. If you
could lay hand on his bridle you would obtain your
heart's desire. But he rides so swiftly that even as
you hear the sound of his horse's hoofs he is gone.
In old times people worshipped at the king's grave,
and even now there is a curious feeling about the
tumulus. No one when passing it speaks of any in-
justice, lest the king's rest should be disturbed by
hearing of wrong that he cannot right.'
* That is a fine idea,' Cassilis observed thought-
* Yes, is it not ? It impressed me very much when
I was a child. I used to wonder why he did not
hear and see injustice when he was riding about, but
there is always some inconsistency in these legends.
Often I sat here at dusk and fancied I heard the gal-
loping hoofs. There is a measured beating in the
air at times — the echo, I suppose, of some distant
' So the hillside is a magic garden where a king
rides nightly, and slain men return from the battle-
field. Are there any more legends? I am falling
under the spell of these " enchantments old." I too
shall return hither like the Ringway men.'
' Do you feel like a ghost already ? '
' No — yes — no, I think not. I wish to gather some
of the magic fern-seed before I die.'
' Then now is the time. The church clock is striking
twelve. Hark ! '
Slowly the strokes followed each other, filling the
air with deep reverberations that seemed to float away
52 Quality Corner
over the valley. Then, to Cassilis's amazement, the
chimes suddenly struck up the rollicking tune of —
* There is na luck about the house.
There is na luck at a',
There is na luck about the house
When my gudeman's awa' ! '
' Of all the ,' he began, and burst into a fit of
laughing, in which Thea joined; and their laughter
echoed over the hillside, mingling with the jovial
clanging of the chimes. Then the ringing ceased, the
air trembled a little, and all the night again became
hushed and still.
' What a goblin entertainment you are giving me ! '
' Am I not ? We are proud of those chimes. There
is nothing like them anywhere.'
' I should imagine not ! '
' And you were so busy laughing that you forgot
to gather the fern-seed as midnight sounded. Look,
it is gone.*
Cassilis looked to the left where the silver sparkle
had shone. It had vanished. The crescent moon
had sunk, and the water no longer glittered; all the
valley was dark.
' Next Midsummer Eve,' he said, * I will not be
distracted from my purpose by those chimes. I will
stuff my ears like the girl in the fairy tale. Then I
may be more lucky. And if I am no longer here,' —
what impelled him to utter the words ? — ' my ghost
shall come. Perhaps ghosts are better able to gather
fern-seed than we who are still in this mortal coil.'
* Oh ! this is getting too weird altogether ! ' cried
A Study of Remorse 53
Thea with a little shiver. * The fern-seed is gone,
Dr. Cassihs, and we must go too. If we stay here
any longer we shall be turning into ghosts before our
They turned back round the corner by the haw-
thorn and through the leafy darkness of the moss-
paven lane, and out on the high-road again, where the
Scorpion's Heart burnt redly in the blue south-west
and the lights of Quality Corner glimmered below.
A few minutes more brought them to Number Two,
where Basset sat placidly reading his book.
* Got any fern-seed ? ' he enquired when the two
appeared before him. Thea answered : ' No. We
might have done so, had not Dr. Cassilis broken the
spell by laughing at the chimes. But we have seen
' And it is a great satisfaction to know that it exists,*
SEVEN o'clock on Midsummer morning in Ring-
way; blue and beautiful — the pale blue of the
north-west, where silvery mists hang in the air, giving
the distance its peculiar softness. Through the blue
dewiness James Cassilis climbed Ringway hill on its
southern side, which was not the reasonable slope he
had walked up to hear the chimes at midnight, but a
tolerably steep ascent. He had discovered a flight of
worn stone steps leading up to the church, and he
ran up these with a boyish feeling of elation. His
life in Ringway seemed to have begun well. He had
fallen, not among thieves, but friends. Basset, Emily
Darnton, Occleston, Rudell, a rich patient in Galloway,
that unexpected ramble with Thea Basset on the
hillside ; then confused pleasant dreams, a summons at
dawn to another patient farther away down in the
vale ; and now homeward in the sunny morning with
that sense of renewed youth and hope that had so sud-
denly inspired him. Certainly there was Mark Parfitt,
standing as it were like the grim guest at the feast.
But Cassilis was not thinking of him as he sprang up
the steps, pausing for a moment at the top to look at
the old red sandstone church, rosy in the early sun-
light, and the great southern sweep of valley below it.
Then he turned his back on church and vale, and
for a moment stood considering which of two roads
A Study of Remorse 55
to take — either would lead him back to the town.
The more direct of the two was bordered by red-
stemmed pines at equal distances, like sentinels be-
side the way. Someone was coming along this road;
white gleams appeared and disappeared between the
trees, and Cassilis was at once convinced that this
was the best — indeed, the only route to take. He went
pine-wards, and the gleams resolved themselves into
Thea Basset, wearing a white gown and broad straw
hat, and carrying a sheaf of blue and white iris.
* The iris was once called Gladwyn,' she said, hold-
ing out the flowers by way of greeting. ' I am taking
these to decorate the church.'
She did not ask him why he was there, or where
he had been, seeming to accept his presence as a
matter of course on that quiet road in the morning
light. Nor did Cassilis offer any explanation, but
turned and walked beside her, saying in reply :
' This is St. John's day, is it not ? '
' Therefore I decorate the church. I don't do it
for the other saints, only for the two St. Johns. I
make favourites, you see.'
' Then what becomes of the other saints ? '
* Oh, other people look after them.'
' Will the doors be open at this hour ? '
' The vestry door. At least I think so. If not, I
must get the key.'
The vestry door yielded to a push, and they entered
the cool dim church, their footsteps echoing along
the aisles. There was no one else there ; only the
summer morning filled the building. The sunshine
struck through the mullioned windows in slant shafts
of light that wherever they touched lit the red sand-
56 Quality Corner
stone to rosy flame. Songs of birds came in on a little
breeze, seeming to deepen the silence and the peace.
' I share your admiration of the Baptist,' said
Cassilis as Thea untied her sheaf of iris. ' If he had
chosen to preach a good average sermon free from
personalities, he might have ended as Herod's private
chaplain. Instead, he preferred to be one of the
world's stupendous failures.'
' The failures that were deferred successes,' said
' Yes, that is what I mean.'
Then he fell silent, watching Thea's movements
as she went to and fro, placing a handful of iris here,
another handful there. The sunbeams streaming
through the stained glass of the great east window
filled all the chancel with rainbow lights — little pools
of violet and rose on the red marble floor, amethyst
and crimson flecks on Thea's white gown, glimmer-
ings of purple and amber high up on the warm sand-
stone of the walls ; and it seemed to Cassilis as though
he might stand for ever in that iris-scented rose-hued
church, full of sunlit glory and silent save for those
light footsteps on the marble and bird-songs without
in the summer morning.
After a while he spoke. ' Do you know the story
of the Monk Felix ? '
' Am I not a Troll maiden ? I know all stories.
" As in a dream of rest,
Walked the Monk Felix." '
* Yes, well this is my dream of rest. Have I been
here a few minutes or a hundred years ? Is the world
outside the same as when we left it? Or shall we
A Study of Remorse 57
find " the nations' airy navies grappling in the central
blue " ? '
' If we do,' said Thea, throwing back her head
with a little defiant gesture, ' I am quite sure England's
navy will be on the top, nearest the Polestar.'
Cassilis laughed. ' How patriotically warlike you
' Of course. I am always glad St. George of En-
gland is a fighting saint.'
' Certainly the Roman centurion seems a suitable
patron for us. St. George's military character would
naturally impel him to cheer the British bull-dog on
to the fight, instead of " with a Httle hoard of maxims
preaching down a soldier's heart." '
It was Thea who laughed now. ' I see you are as
warlike as I,' she said, turning to her iris flowers
again, and once more the sunny silence reigned in the
Presently Cassilis broke the stillness by remarking
that nobody knew where he was.
' I let myself quietly out of the house when I was
called to a patient, and forgot to leave a note to say
where I was going. So if anyone wants me Never
mind; this is better. Whether Quality Comer is pre-
paring its breakfast, or the Red Cross of St. George
blowing against the Polestar, as you suggest, it is all
the same to me. I will enjoy my dream of rest. Per-
haps it may last the hundred years. Perhaps for ever,
your irises unfading and this midsummer morning
Thea regarded him critically. ' Your mind is be-
coming unhinged. Monk Felix. Something must be
done to bring you back to this present world. I
58 Quality Corner
will take you into the churchyard and show you the
southern view of the valley. We can go out by the
They went down the chancel steps into the nave,
passing from the prismatic colours of the east window
into the white sunshine that illumined the body of the
church. In the west transept Thea stopped and
looked back to where the chancel glowed in its rain-
* My irises stand out well,' she said. ' Blue and
white are the only colours one can use among all that
ruby and violet.'
' They are dream-flowers,' said Cassilis. ' They be-
long to my dream of rest : their name means the rain-
bow, and they signify hope.'
* Your slumber. Monk Felix, appears to be unusu-
ally profound. Come out into the workaday world.'
' There is no workaday world,' he declared, as he
followed her into the churchyard, * if by workaday is
meant prosaic. The natural world is perfect : and the
artificial world — that is, civilised man and his doings
— I have always found remarkably curious and interest-
' Sometimes. In patches.'
' I find him interesting all round, dead or living,
at all times and all places.'
' These are interesting.' Thea extended one hand
over the flat mossy gravestones under their feet.
' Some of them I knew, and of nearly all I know the
histories and the descendants. There are a very few
old stones on which the names are obliterated. This
is dead Ringway. They live in the town down there
behind us, and then lie here in the sunshine; the
A Study of Remorse 59
church bells ringing over them and their friends com-
ing round them every Sunday. Does it not all seem
simple and peaceful ? '
' Very peaceful,' assented Cassilis.
Ringway churchyard did look very peaceful that
brilHant June morning, lying as it did full to the
south, overlooking the valley, the church seeming to
gather the gravestones round her, protecting the dead
while their slumber lasted — the dead who from child-
hood to old age had worshipped within those walls.
Thea led the way to a lilac bush. ' Here,' said she,
looking down on a stone that bore the name of Martha
Grundy, ' lies a nice old woman who kept a little
shop where I used to buy beads at a halfpenny a thim-
bleful. She died when she was ninety. I wish she
had lived to be a hundred.'
' I am not sure that old women who sell beads at
a halfpenny a thimbleful ought to live to be a hundred.
The price seems to me outrageous.'
" It was a very big thimble, and she was such a
sweet old woman, always smiling.'
' No wonder ! — with such profits.'
Thea's charming rippling laugh blended with the
songs of the birds. Then she bent down a blossoming
bough of the lilac.
' You know Daddy's theories ? He says the scent
of lilac fits people for gentle duties. Do you agree ? '
She turned the lilac towards Cassilis, shaking it
a little, so that the homely fragrance spread on the
* Perhaps,' he replied, ' to respect your old bead-
woman may be a gentle duty. Already I feel mollified.
No doubt that is the result of the lilac'
6o Quality Corner
The bough swung back, faint purple against the
' Everybody argues as to which side of Ringway
is the prettier, the north or the south,' Thea continued.
' It is a question that can never be settled, because it
depends upon individual fancy; so they argue the
more. I prefer the north ; it is wilder, and has the
legends. Do you like looking down on the homes of
men from a height? I do. The being up aloft is
soothing to one's vanity, I suppose. Have you any
vanity. Dr. Cassilis ? '
' Many vanities. They are more numerous than the
hairs of my head.'
' What is your most rampant vanity ? '
' The universal one — my own importance.'
Which statement was not true, for it never occurred
to Cassilis to reflect whether he was important or not.
But just now he was not heeding his utterances. The
dewy peace of the morning, the pleasant novelty of
Ringway, Thea Basset's presence, all sent his spirits
up to a point of irresponsible joyousness that had not
been his for many years. Was he ' fey ' ? Anyway,
he was happy, and spoke with the carelessness of hap-
His companion listened with the same smiling un-
belief she had shown the previous evening, and again
Cassilis felt the inspiriting effect of that unbelief. She
pointed to the clock.
' A quarter to eight. Time to go home.'
' Let us stay and hear the chimes,' he suggested.
Thea shook her head. ' You can stay and hear them
if you like, but we breakfast at a quarter past.'
* Very well,' resignedly.
A Study of Remorse 6i
' What is your breakfast hour, Dr. Cassilis ? '
' I have not the least idea/
' Did you not order it ? '
' No, I forgot all about it.'
' Then will you breakfast with us ? When I tell
Daddy I met you here he will expect to see you as a
matter of course.'
' I should like it immensely, if you are sure I shall
not be a nuisance. It's like befriending a stray dog,
you know. He's never off the doorstep.'
' Why should he be ? Is it not better to stay with
one's friends ? '
* At the risk of wearying them ? '
' Daddy never grows weary of people, a character-
istic for which I especially admire him. He merely
feels somewhat harassed when he meets a man who
has absolutely no sense of smell. He regards him as
an outer barbarian, and is troubled. But you are in
high favour, as being a promising subject for experi-
ment in the matter of perfumes.'
' Mr. Basset shall experiment upon me to his heart's
content,' responded Cassilis, as they turned out of
the churchyard into the pine-bordered road. ' Ringway
itself appears to be doing so already. Last night it
smelt of moss and thyme. To-day it smells of iris and
lilac. What will be to-morrow's scent? '
' Who can tell till to-morrow ? ' said Thea, with the
light soft gaiety that struck a strangely familiar chord
in Cassihs's memory. Surely he had once met someone
who resembled her, in manner at least. Yet he was
positive he never had.
And so, talking idly, pleasantly, they walked home
along the country road to Quality Corner.
ALL Quality Corner usually breakfasted at the same
hour, therefore all Quality Corner was aware
that the new tenant of Number One had accompanied
Thea Basset home and was breakfasting at Number
Two. Emily Darnton, sitting solitary at Number
Three, told herself that perhaps it would have been
wiser not to have refused the invitation to gather
fern-seed the night before. For Emily had been im-
pressed by the newcomer. * But I can never compete
with Thea out of doors,' she reflected. ' I carry the
house with me, like a snail. My conversation is indoor,
whereas Thea becomes a part of everything somehow.
However, I don't suppose she wants the man. It is
only her habit of talking to everybody. Besides, I am
not sure ' Here Miss Darnton's thoughts wan-
dered off into many possibilities.
At Number Four, Parfitt, half turning in his chair
to look into the street, remarked carelessly :
' I have met him somewhere before.'
Rudell glanced up from his plate. * Who ? Cassi-
' Yes. I remembered his face the moment I saw him
last night, but I cannot recall where I saw him, nor
Mark's chill impassive tones had the property of
conveying a subtle doubt of the person of whom he
A Study of Remorse 63
chanced to speak, so that Mrs. Rudell responded
* Do try to remember. I hke to know things about
people, especially when they come mysteriously into a
place, as Dr. Cassilis has done.'
Rudell looked up again. ' My dear, there is nothing
mysterious about Dr. Cassilis's arrival here. He
bought the practice in the ordinary way, just as Smith
* Oh, Dr. Smith was the sort of a man who never
has any story. But this Dr. Cassilis might have a
dozen stories belonging to him.'
' I have a vague idea that he is connected in my
mind with a tale of some sort,' said Parfitt.
' Then try your very hardest to recollect,' cried his
' If I try to remember I shall infallibly forget. The
way to remember is to try to forget.'
Rudell felt slightly annoyed. * Really, Susette, it is
not fair to imply that a stranger's past must neces-
sarily be something he would rather hide. Dr. Cassi-
lis's affairs are no concern of ours. He seems a clever
fellow. I v.'Onder he has not done better in life ; he
can hardly be without ambition. If he is, that gives
him an additional pull.'
'How? I do not see that,' demurred Mrs. Rudell.
' Don't you ? Which has the more time and oppor-
tunity for thinking and observing, the man who is
scrambling up a ladder in company with a thousand
others, all trying to get to the top at once, or the
man who stands aside and watches the scramble ? '
* Now, Gregory, that is not polite to Mark, who is
64 Quality Corner
' Oh, well, Parfitt is at the top of the ladder.'
' Not quite the tipmost top,' said Parfitt, with ar-
rogant modesty. * But Cassilis's indifference to the
noble science of getting on may simply be a, natural
proneness to remain at the bottom.'
' Not with that head,' said Rudell.
' In any case,' pursued Mark blandly, ' he is admir-
ably adapted to the people of Ringway, whose am-
bition appears to centre in the wish to remain where
they are, physically and mentally.'
Parfitt was distinctly angry. There had been an
implied rebuke in Rudell's observations, and this the
artist resented. However, his opinion of Ringway did
not seem to ruffle his brother-in-law, for the latter
replied serenely :
' I doubt whether there are many better fates for
a man than to tread the same familiar ground from
youth to age, and lay his bones at last among the
gravestones over which he played leap-frog when a
Parfitt looked condescendingly incredulous. ' Is
leap-frog permitted in the churchyard? I should not
have imagined so.'
' It is not. Hence the enjoyment.'
' What ! ' exclaimed his wife. ' Do you mean to
tell me, Gregory, that you played leap-frog in Ring-
way churchyard ? '
' Often, my dear, and so did Basset. Once I broke
my leg in trying to out-leap Basset, and my father
promised me a thrashing as soon as my leg was well.
I got it too,' added Rudell with a smile.
* And did it stop you playing leap-frog afterwards? '
A Study of Remorse 65
* ' Not in the least. But none the less was the thrash-
ing wholesome for me. It gave me a due sense of
law and order. I may not have been better with it,
but I should undoubtedly have been worse without it;
therefore I was the better for the experience, and am
still. No use looking for immediate results. The
good effects of a judicious thrashing may not be visible
for twenty years.'
* What surprises me,' said Mrs. Rudell, ' is that any-
one in Ringway can have the smallest respect for
either you or Mr. Basset after witnessing, as they must
have done, your youthful exploits.'
' Pooh, my dear. They like us all the better.'
' I comprehend/ observed Parfitt slowly. ' Quite
clannish and antique — mediaeval, rather. Well, that
is against a stranger.'
His sister laughed. ' Are you thinking of Dr.
Cassilis ? How he interests us all ! Whatever he does
or has done, I do hope he will not cure Mr. Gallo-
way's gout, for each attack means a new will to be
made. I have had several new gowns out of those
wills, and I want some more.'
Meanwhile Cassilis, unconscious that his doings
aroused any particular interest, was enjoying his break-
fast at Number Two. There certainly was something
to be said for Basset's theories of perfume and colour.
How pleasant was that fragrant room with its vary-
ing shades of amethyst and faint purple, and the soft
harmony of the pale lavender iris in the tall murrey-
' Yes,' said Basset, replying to a remark respecting
the charm of the room ; ' after much reflection on the
subject, I decided that violet in its lighter shades is
66 Quality Corner
the colour best adapted to promote cheerfulness in a
company of human beings of varying temperaments.
Dull muddy colouring is depressing, and a dark green
or dark red dining-room is apt to foster a terrible
self-consciousness. That is why agnostics and bad-
tempered people usually take their defiant meals in
apartments of those sulkily aggressive hues. On the
other hand, sunny reds, greens, golds, soft June blues,
might, by their very brightness, jar upon overworked
or saddened men and women. Put pale violet —
united rose and turquoise — is the exact mingling of
gaiety and gravity suitable to every mood. Whether
you are glad or sorrowful, violet harmonises and you
eat and drink in peace; just as violets were strewn
equally on table and on tomb by that nation of dinner-
givers, the Romans.'
' And the iris ? ' said Cassilis interrogatively. He
liked to see Basset well mounted on his hobby.
' I consider the scent of the iris,' replied his host,
' a distinct stimulant — less soothing than the pinks,
but more intellectual ; and, equally with the pinks and
all sweet odours, tending to lightheartedness. I shc»uld
describe the iris perfume as debonair, soldierly, artistic.
It is the Crusader, the Cellini ; equally at home in war
and art. We see the gold lilies of France flying against
the blue in Palestine, the lily of St. Mark shining in
Venetian marble, and the red liHes of Florence flame
through Dante's pages.'
' I thought,' said Cassilis, ' that the lilies of Florence
were the white iris ? '
' Once they were,' said Thea. ' Do you not re-
member how Dante laments the change of colour from
white to red ? '
A Study of Remorse 67
' I do remember now. How could I have forgotten ?
I thought I knew my Dante well. But that is in the
" Paradise." '
* Do you not often walk in Paradise ? '
' Not often. My feet are more familiar with the
' When I was eight years old,' Thea went on, ' I
painted in childish fashion two pictures : one was the
death of Buonconte. To my profound astonishment,
nobody knew anything of Buonconte except my
father — I mean my real father; it was before he died.
He understood my picture at once, and repeated the
passage. The incident shook my faith in all other
grown-up people. I reflected in my small mind that
if they were ignorant of Dante they were ignorant
Cassilis laughed. ' It would have been more sur-
prising had they known. What was your other pic-
ture ? '
* Whitsuntide merry-making — a people's holiday,
you know. And as I naturally possessed no know-
ledge whatever of perspective, my merry-making
looked like the Day of Judgment in a very old paint-
ing — rows and rows of figures going up and up to
the top of the picture. Only when you observed it
closely, you perceived such mundane vanities as
merry-go-rounds, hurdy-gurdies, and dancing.'
' Where are these works of art ? ' asked Cassilis.
' Gone — lost — destroyed long ago. Who would
keep such childish scribbles ? '
' I wish they had been kept,' remarked Basset. ' I
should like to have seen them. Not on account of
their artistic merit,' he smiled, ' but because the sub-
68 Quality Corner
jects were curious for a child, and so dissimilar — op-
posite poles of human life.'
' Oh, I know you would have appreciated them,
Daddy. Quite as much as my father did.'
' How does it happen,' said Cassilis, ' that you are
not an artist, since your natural bent showed itself
' I do not think it was my natural bent,' replied
Thea. ' I think those two pictures were not any evi-
dence of capacity for art, they merely showed apprecia-
tion of dramatic effects. I had been impressed by the
contention of the angels for Buonconte's soul, and by
the humour of the Whitsuntide games.'
' What is art ? ' queried Basset. ' The best definition
of art that I have heard was given me by a woman
artist — " Art is the perception of beauty with the genius
for expressing it." That is it — the gift of the seer
and speaker in one. The ancients made no difference
whether the thought was expressed in colour, stone, or
words ; that is, words used as the painter uses colour
and the sculptor light and shade — words that sound
aright to the ear as well as mean aright. With the
Greeks, you know, the spoken word was the test of
excellence, and from their criticism there is no appeal.
Language is sound, and should be harmonious sound.
The written word is merely a chronicle of that sound.
To write a sentence that splits one's ears is the same
thing as uttering a screech. What should we say if a
singer howled, and excused himself on the ground that
the audience understood his meaning, and he had not
time to cultivate his voice ? ' He paused a moment,
then continued, * We talk so much of the literature of
A Study of Remorse 69
art that we have well-nigh lost the art of literature.
Yet how simple it is ! Let a man buy a Latin diction-
ary and a Greek lexicon, a Bible and a Shakespeare, a
Mallory and a Pilgrim's Progress, and read these hum-
bly and affectionately, and when possible, out of doors ;
and he will give us Orcagnas or Memlings, Corots or
Gerard Douws, according to his individuality. As for
the present-day craze for charnel-house knowledge,'
pursued Basset, warming up to his subject, ' I have no
words wherewith to express my opinion of it. What
good does it do me to knew whether I have one, two,
or a dozen bones in my legs? Is it not better to know
how Bayard kept the bridge at Biagasso, and what
manner of man he was ? Such knowledge is stimulat-
ing — vivifying ; the other is not.'
' You perceive,' said Thea, addressing Cassilis, ' that
Daddy reads all the literature of which he disapproves.
He has piles of new books and magazines. He devours
them all and then sits down and screams.'
' Yes,' Basset acquiesced. ' Thea is the wiser. She
only reads such books as commend themselves to her
natural turn of mind, whereas I am in the position of a
man who tastes things that do not agree with him. I
do it because I wish to know what is going on in the
world. Briefly, I am a martyr to a sense of duty — and
' I think,' Cassilis observed reflectively, ' that our
end-of-the-century literature is equal to our art.'
Basset slowly passed his hand over his face. ' My
dear Cassilis, in my most severe moods I have never
said anything so bad as that.'
' I intended it for a compHment to both.'
70 Quality Corner
* Did you ? Dear me ! '
' Daddy, you are unreasonable,' said Thea. ' This
century is a very good century, books and all.'
' Where are our Ghiberti gates ? ' demanded Basset
impressively. ' Our buildings, what are they ? And
how long do they last ? '
' We cannot compete with the old builders,' Cassilis
agreed, looking at the pale iris flowers in the Tyrian
glass. ' I am inclined to think that the reason old stone
carving is so good is because in those days every man
could wield a weapon — learnt how to use it knowing
that at any moment he might have to fight for his life.
The accuracy and freedom of eye and hand thus ob-
tained told, when the hand held the chisel. For ex-
ample, Cellini prided himself equally upon his accuracy
of stroke, whether dealing a mortal stab or carving a
' No doubt you are right,' assented Basset. ' What
an entertaining scamp he was ! — Cellini, I mean. Now-
adays our rascals are terrible bores — an unpardonable
fault. If a man will not be moral, he might at least be
amusing. The old debonair gaiety is departing. Peo-
ple cannot even amuse themselves, much less others.
Tristram no longer sings in Lyonesse, but puts his hat
on the back of his head and yawns in a music-hall.'
He waved his hand towards the iris : ' " Debonair," a
fine old word! But how can a man feel debonair in
smoke-polluted towns and chemically-poisoned mead-
ows, where there are no birds to teach him to sing in
the joyousness of his heart? Earth, air, and water are
contaminated by the twin Malebolge demons called
Science and Progress. Soon there will be neither birds
nor sun. We shall sit under a canopy of smoke ilium-
A Study of Remorse 71
ined by electric light, and talk about our bones — bones
' Daddy,' interposed Thea, ' do not be so sepulchral.
Besides, Dr. Cassilis probably takes an interest in
* Only a professional interest. I am in complete
accord with Mr. Basset's sentiments.'
' Were you always so ? ' she enquired. ' Or are your
present convictions the transient effect of the iris
scent ? '
' Not transient. They were in my mind, written in
invisible ink as it were. My present surroundings are
bringing them out.'
Basset was wholly charmed with his guest. Here
was an appreciative companion indeed ! When at last
Cassilis rose to go, his host allowed him to depart with
' You have paid my breakfast-table a high compli-
ment ; you have talked as though you were at supper.
I am greatly flattered.'
* Surely,' replied Cassilis, ' the verb applies rather
' Will you dine with us again this evening ? ' Basset
looked quite eager as he said this.
* Thank you, I should like it above all things. But
Mr. Galloway asked me to dine there to-day, and I
* Ah,' with an indescribable inflection of voice. ' Gal-
loway is an excellent fellow, but his dinners are '
Basset paused to seek a suitable expression, ' they are
what people call wholesome. And the colouring of
his dining-room is calculated to provoke severe indi-
gestion. I explained this to him some time ago. He
72 Quality Corner
replied that he never looked round while he was eat-
' So when you dine there, Dr. Cassilis,' said Thea,
' try not to look round while you are eating.'
' I fear,' he responded, ' that my curiosity will impel
me to run the risk of indigestion.'
' Well, dine with us to-morrow,' said Basset. ' And
come in this afternoon if you can.'
' Fate is good to me,' said Cassilis. ' Need I say I
will come ? '
IF Cassilis was ' fey,' then to be fey is indeed to be
happy. All that day he trod on air, iris-tinted air.
He built no fairy castles in his mind ; had no thought
of the future. He simply enjoyed the sparkling present.
If the circumstances seem but poor and slight thus to
raise a man's spirit from the dust of many years : —
only a new life in the green grey-clouded north-west,
within sight — almost within sound — of Woffendale
smoke and flame ; a welcome from a little knot of
neighbours ; a hope of bread not too hardly earned —
if these seem slight matters, be it remembered that over
all these shone the light of a girl's dark eyes, and the
man had led a lonely, remorseful life. Truly this sunny
present so unexpectedly given to him was as a rainbow
after the storm.
Entering his own house, Cassilis was met by his
housekeeper with two messages from the town — two
more patients. He began to explain to the old woman
how he had been called early to a house at some dis-
tance, and had breakfasted next door, but she quietly
replied that she had seen him go into Number Two,
and the milkman's boy had told her ' he had fetched the
doctor that morning to Mr. Brown's in the Vale.'
'Oh, the milkman's boy was my guide, was he?'
responded Cassilis, rather taken aback, and experien-
cing that sensation as of living in a glass house which
is familiar to dwellers in country towns. But it was a
74 Quality Corner
pleasant sensation on the whole. After all, there is
something very cheerful about a glass house, and un-
doubtedly it promotes friendliness. We all like a man
the better if we can hang over his garden wall and tell
him his best friend has cheated him in the matter of
that horse he has just bought.
James Cassilis went out into the town with fresh
enthusiasm, saw his patients, and, returning through
the market-place about noon, was greeted by Solomon
Ingers. The old seedsman stood sunning himself as
usual on the top step of his shop, and conversing with
a couple of bystanders, who discreetly withdrew as the
doctor came up.
' A fine day, sir,' said Solomon.
* It is,' replied Cassilis, seeing in the old man's eye an
inclination to gossip, and stopping accordingly, * I
had no idea Ringway was so pretty.'
' Then happen you'll settle down here ? ' Sol observed
' I shall if the place will have me. I like it im-
' Th' place '11 ha' thee fast enow,' dropping into the
famiHar thee and thou as meaning greater friendliness ;
' th' place '11 be glad to ha' thee.'
He opened the historic snuff-box and offered it to
Cassilis, who took a pinch. Sol then took one; and
after this ceremony there was a moment's silence.
' There's a queer owd chap, a friend o' mine,' Sol
resumed, ' that's likely to send fur yo'. His name's
Wheeler, an' he's been ailing off an' on fur many a
year; got a squeeze betwixt th' buffers when he wur
on th' railway. After that, some brass coom to him, a
matter o' six pound a week, and that made him an' his
A Study of Remorse 75
missis comfortable. Well, he fell out wi' Dr. Smith
nigh on two year ago. It wur one fine spring morning,
an' Wheeler wur hobbling round his garden wi' a stick
— he's been pretty crooked sin' th' buffers hit him —
when Smith coom up, an' thinking to please him, says,
" Your case is a very interesting one, Mr. Wheeler. I
mun write an account of it fur a medical paper. It 'ud
excite attention." Eh, Wheeler wur that mad at th'
idea he says, " If tha' does, I'll ha' th' law on thee."
Smith tells him it's lawful enow, and Wheeler says,
" Then if tha does, my nevvy shall give thee a hiding,
as I conna do it mysen." Smith laughs an' walks off.
But Wheeler w^ouldna ha' him again ; he wur too mad.'
Here Sol paused, and Cassilis, feeling it was ex-
pected of him, enquired what medical man had the care
of Mr. Wheeler's health after Dr. Smith's dismissal.
* Eh, never a one ! His wife wanted to send for a
doctor fro' Woffendale, but he said happen a' th' doc-
tors wur alike, an' if he wur to dee, he'd dee wi'out
a' th' world knowing a' about it. It wuma reasonable,'
said Solomon apologetically, * but Wheeler wur mad
through an' through. An' fur to keep an eye on Smith,
Wheeler starts taking a' th' medical papers he could
hear on ; an' he says to me, " Th' minute I see my name
i' these here papers, I'll set my nevvy on to Smith. Ay,
I will that." It wur a regular job fur Wheeler to read
'em; it took him a' his toime, not being much of a
scholar. They'd coom in batches every week fro' th'
newspaper shop, an' Wheeler he had to keep hard at
'em, fur to get one batch done afore another coom.'
' They could hardly have been very cheerful reading,'
' Happen they wurna, but when a mon's mad he
76 Quality Corner
loikes reading owt that '11 make him madder. He dun-
not want to be soothed, yo' see. Wheeler kept at 'em
steady fur nigh two year, an' then Smith left an' went
to Australia, afore yo' coom, sir. So Wheeler says to
me, " I'm going to stop taking them papers. If he
writes in 'em fro' Australia, he mun write ; for I conna
send my nevvy o'er theer after him, an' if I see my
name in 'em an' conna get at him, it'll make me feel
worse nor ever. So I'll look no more." '
' Mr. Wheeler seems to be a very sensible man,' said
' Oh, ay, he's a sensible chap at th' bottom, an' he
isna close wi' money. He wur telling me last neet that
he felt a bit dull now Smith wur gone an' he'd stopped
th' papers ; an' he wur thinking o' sending fur yo' if
he wur sure yo' wouldna write about his being crooked.'
Here Sol paused and looked politely interrogative.
* No, I will not.'
' So I told him,' Sol continued calmly. ' I told him
I wur sure yo' wurna that sort, an' he told me he'd
send for yo' to-day or to-morrow, an' I reckon he will,
being that dull wi'out Smith an' the papers. Eh, but
them papers made a noice doment i' th' place last
Christmas ! '
' Indeed ? How was that ? '
' Well, Mrs. Wheeler didna like 'em, an' she wur
fair sick o' seeing th' piles an' piles of 'em, so nigh on
Christmas she sells a lot of 'em to Reid, th' grocer an'
cheesemonger o'er theer,' Sol pointed with his snuff-
box across the market-place. ' Being the week afore
Christmas theer wur a goodish bit o' trade being done
o'er the' counter, an' in less than three days them
medical papers wur a' o'er th' town. Eh! but theer
A Study of Remorse 77
wur a noise ! Folks talked it o'er among theirsen an'
a' th' women went up to Reid's shop an' hollered at
him. " What dost tha mean? " they says, " wropping
up Christian food i' bits o' paper a' about folks deein'
an' being cut up aloive an' ha'ing a' th' plagues o'
Egypt ! Noice things fur folks to read at Christmas !
An' a' th' little uns a-spelling 'em out too. Tha's done
it on purpose, wi' thy nasty unbelief ! Tha conna abide
that Christian folk should ha' their Christmas comfort-
able. That's what's th' matter wi' thee!" Fur Reid
wurha exactly a Christian,' said Sol parenthetically. ' I
dunnot know precisely what he wur, an' I dunnot think
he knew hissen, but it made him feel grand-like to say
he wurna th' same as his neighbours. But he wur
took to at a' th' noise, fur he didna want to get a bad
name an' lose custom, so he put his two hands to his
mouth — fur theer wur such a squealing yo' couldna
hear yoursen speak, an' he shouts to th' women, " See
here, it's no good hollering at me. I didna know what
wur in th' papers. I bought 'em fro' Mrs. Wheeler.
Yo' go an' holler at Wheeler's." So they went, an'
Wheeler he coom out an' says, " Well, I didna know as
my wife had sold any o' them papers, but it's no fault
o' mine. It's a' Dr. Smith's doing, fur if it hadna
been fur him I should never ha' thought o' taking 'em,
as a' th' town knows." So the women all went home
mad wi' Smith, an saying they wouldna ha' him to
doctor 'em. Eh, but it did Smith a sight o' harm,' re-
marked Sol with evident satisfaction, adding, ' Not but
what he got summat fur hissen out of it, after a'.'
' In what way ? ' Cassilis enquired.
' Why, not long afore he went to Australia he met
Mrs. Wheeler i' th' street, an' he says to her, " Have
7 8 Quality Corner
yo' got any more o' them papers, Mrs. Wheeler ? " fur
of course he'd heard o' th' doment at Christmas. " A
year's an' more," she says, " an' I hannot patience wi'
either Wheeler or th' women. I conna sell 'em now,
an th' house is fair choked wi' 'em." " How much did
yo' get fur 'em ? " asks Smith. " Nobbut a halfpenny
th' pound," she says, " fur Reid's a mean chap. But I
wur glad to get shut on 'em." " I'll give yo' twopence
a pound fur 'em," says Smith, " an' they'll be safe
enough with me, yo' know, Mrs. Wheeler." So she let
him have 'em, an' never told Wheeler who she'd sold
'em to till Smith wur gone to Australia. Wheeler wur
pretty mad to think he'd been buying papers fur to give
Smith lessons in doctoring, as he said. I told him it
wur real Scripture, a-heaping coals o' fire on his en-
emy's head ; an' Mrs. Wheeler, she said she didna care
who had 'em so long as she got without 'em. So theer
wur th' end o' th' medical papers.'
Cassilis laughed and observed that on the whole he
thought the papers were best in his predecessor's
' Oh, ay, th' town's well shut on 'em, an' on Dr.
Smith too,' in a tone of conviction. ' He wurna much
o' a gentleman, an' he didna suit th' place. Happen
he'll do better in Australia.'
In the old seedsman's manner was a delicate intima-
tion that Cassilis would suit the place. In truth, Sol
was delighted with him. When had he had so good a
listener as this grave deep-eyed stranger, who so sym-
pathetically followed the windings of his gossip? Sol
was a connoisseur in listeners. Not for nothing had
he stood on that top step in the sun and gossiped for
forty years and more. He perceived intuitively the
A Study of Remorse 79
absent mind, saw the wandering eye with the tail of
his own, noted the restlessness of the feet that marks
the uninterested or impatient listener. None of these
obnoxious signs were visible about Cassilis ; and old
Sol, being fully aware that the newcomer had already
dined and breakfasted at Number Two, said to himself
that ' Wi' Basset at one end an' me at th' other, it'll go
hard but what we'll make his fortune betwixt us.'
On his part, Cassilis was well amused by the old
seedsman — interested also. Solomon Ingers was of a
type that is vanishing — the sober-minded man of the
people, content to live and die in the house wherein he
was born ; concerning himself little about what was
happening outside the two familiar counties, the one
in which he lived and the one into which he could walk
in half an hour were he minded to turn his steps to-
wards WoflFendale. These two counties constituted his
world, and Ringway was its centre, and himself the
centre of Ringway. Perhaps he was a trifle too strongly
permeated with the conviction of the eminent useful-
ness of ' brass,' but then he was of the burgher type,
and his shrewdness was not unkindly. In stress, old
Sol could be depended on ; a spark could be struck out
of him as out of flint if struck at the right angle ; and
he had the instinct of loyalty, which is a great matter.
In the short silence he meditatively tapped the profile
of Charles Edward on his snufif-box. The sun shone
on his silver head, making it the point of brightest
light, to which his pale grey clothes, his white apron,
his puckered face — yellow ivory, like the keys of an
old spinet — all seemed to lead up ; the silver glint of his
hair was the only sparkle about him.
' Theer's another friend o' mine,' he resumed, ' a
8o Quality Corner
farmer over there,' with a wave of his hand north-
west, ' who had a curious stroke o' luck yesterday —
leastways one conna tell whether or no a woman '11
be a stroke o' luck till one knows summat o' her ways.
It happened i' this gait. Gresty, he's a widower wi'
six little uns, and nobbut an owd lass o' sixty-five — owd
Martha Plows — to see to 'em. I wur advising him to
wed a steady lass i' th' town, none too young, an'
wi' a noice bit o' brass in her pocket. But Gresty 's one
o' them chaps that mun ha' a pretty face to look at. I
oft tell 'em th' Queen's face on a sovereign is th' pret-
tiest face yo' con look at, though I mout as well say
nowt for a' th' notice taken ! Well, owd Martha's
grandson works on th' farm, an' happening to coom
into th' town this morning, he told me that farmer
Stretton, a friend o' Gresty 's, had brought theer a
widow-woman he'd found wanting a place. A tidy-
looking body, th' lad told me, and fond o' children. I
reckon if she's good-looking an' stirring, Gresty '11
wed her. She's in luck to ha' the chance. Th' Moss
Farm isna a bad down-sitting, an' Gresty 's an easy-
going chap. Th' lad says she gives out she wur a
Marbury lass, but she wedded a mon belonging to
Bramsall, somewhere down Birmingham way.'
' I spent some time in Bramsall once,' said Cassilis.
* It is a miserable hole.'
' I make no doubt on't,' replied Sol, ' an ' seeing th'
woman belongs hereabouts, I'd be glad fur her to get
a good home, if so be as she deserves it. She's bound
to coom into th' town presently, an' then I con see
what sort she is. But Stretton isna a bad judge.'
Again ! Surely it was very strange. During ten
years Cassilis had wandered much, from town to town
A Study of Remorse 8i
— never having had a practice of his own — self-
imposed wanderings, not even staying where he might
have stayed with advantage, till, as the years went
on, he felt a greater peace and a greater desire for
rest. Now in all these wanderings never once had he
met anyone who had lived in, or who was familiar
with Bramsall's gloomy streets and murky atmos-
phere. Yet in this green fern-scented Ringway, on
the first evening of his arrival he had seen again the
man who had replied to his question that sultry mid-
night. And on this second day a waif from that dark
city had drifted hither across his path. Not that this
mattered, or even dimmed his new-found gladness.
It was but the sombre cloud against which his rain-
bow was shining. Cassilis was not sufficiently modem
to be jumping about on pinwire whenever anybody
said ' Boo ! ' or fired a shot at him from behind a
hedge. It was all in the day's march. But it was
curious. The oddness of it struck him forcibly as he
bade old Sol good-day and walked home, a straggler
of the Lord's great army — one unworthy to be His
soldier; merely a campfollower, helping that splendid
host a little on its toilsome way.
OLD Sol Ingers' friend Wheeler sent for Cassilis
that afternoon, and as he was returning home-
wards he met Tony Occleston coming up from the
station. Cassilis liked the young fellow. He was so
bright-eyed and enthusiastic, so full of exuberant
energy, with a kind of admiring shyness in his man-
ner like a dog begging to be taken into favour.
* I am in my working clothes,' he said, with out-
stretched hand and swarthy face aglow. * You must
excuse my far from festive attire. I am in the Cy-
clops Works, as perhaps you know, and have to work
He looked very well in the white oil-stained blouse
that was his working dress. There was a picturesque
squareness about Tony that seemed in harmony with
furnace glare and dazzle of seething steel.
' I have great respect for Tubai-cain,' replied Cas-
Tony laughed. ' Yes, he must have been a capable
sort of fellow. I like to think of him hammering
away at his forge in the morning of the world, while
old Adam sat outside on a stump and smoked his
pipe in the sun. There are my diggings, over that
shop ; ' he pointed to a chemist's in the market-place,
' but I don't spend much time there. My sister-in-
law is good enough to keep a room always ready for
me at Outwood, so I generally walk over from here.
A Study of Remorse 83
It's a nice place, and the two boys are jolly little chaps.
You must come over with me. You would like
George. Shall I see you at Number Two ? '
' This afternoon ? Yes.'
' Then we shall meet again in a few minutes. I
have just time to get into civilised clothes.'
Occleston disappeared, and Cassilis turned into the
Corner. He was grateful for Tony's friendliness. It
gave another pleasant sensation to the man who had
lived a life so curiously apart.
Twenty minutes later Cassilis appeared in Basset's
drawing-room with radiant eyes, prepared to enjoy
himself — even expectant of enjoyment. How many
years had flown since he had felt that expectancy?
But he was young again. After all, he was only thirty-
six, and the weight of the remorseful past had rolled
off him. He was in harmony with the brightness of
the room, the sweetness of the iris-blossoms, and the
unexpected sparkle of a little wood fire that flamed and
crackled as the light breeze blew in through the open
' There is exquisite incongruity about a fire on Mid-
summer Day,' he laughingly remarked as he greeted
the trio, Thea, Basset, and Tony Occleston.
' Daddy is a heathen, and that is his Baal-fire,' said
Thea. ' His ancestors were Druids, and roasted peo-
ple in wicker baskets. He misses the baskets, but
comforts himself with the fire.'
Basset gently put on another log. * I thank you,
Cassilis, for the expression " exquisite incongruity."
It exactly gives the idea. Naturally, everyone feels
exhilarated by a midsummer fire. Human nature is
instinctively attracted by anything incongruous — in-
84 Quality Corner
consistent ; that is, anything inconsistent with the petty
rules wherewith we fetter ourselves, and the plati-
tudes wherewith we deaden our perceptions. In
reality nothing is suitable that is not incongruous,
nothing consistent that is not inconsistent.'
' I don't quite see that,' said Tony.
* Well, to explain fully would be to give the his-
tory of the human race from the Sixth Day to the
present. But as regards the fire, the climate of Ring-
way is soft, cool, and damp; there is perpetual mois-
ture in the air. Therefore a fire is consistent and
grateful. Nevertheless, a fire at midsummer is incon-
' I think a wood fire is not inconsistent in sum-
mer,' observed Thea. ' It has a forest scent, and sug-
gests green woodland. Coal belongs to the " swart
fairies of the mine," and is, in short, depraved wood.
Men have sung of the Yule log, but what poet in his
senses would warble to a lump of coal ? '
* I believe I could warble to a lump of coal on a
frosty night,' said Tony, with his frank boyish laugh.
' No, Tony, you are not so prosaic as you pre-
tend,' Thea declared. ' You might pat the coal on
the head with a poker, but you would not warble
Cassilis sat contentedly drinking the tea Thea gave
him, and listening to the conversation as it flowed on.
' The Rudells spoke of coming in this afternoon,'
Basset presently announced. ' They are going to
Woffendale to-night to dine with the Rusholms.
Parfitt goes too.'
' Supercilious beast, Parfitt,' remarked Tony cheer-
A Study of Remorse 85
fully. ' There was a man in the train to-day with
a nose just like his. I had a good mind to pull it ! '
' Merely because it resembled Parfitt's ? ' inquired
Basset. ' Rather hard on the stranger ! Is not that
carrying animosity a trifle far ? '
* Perhaps it is,' Tony admitted ; ' but just look at
Parfitt ! He inspires every feeling but a good one.
I never see him without wanting to walk softly up
behind him and suddenly administer a solid kick.
That's mean, of course ; but there are times when a
fellow feels a real enjoyment in being deliberately,
stupendously mean. Besides, I am positive Parfitt is
mean himself, so why should he be treated with high-
minded consideration? Sweets to the sweet, say L'
* Certainly I do not care about Parfitt, neither do
I admire his paintings,' said Basset. ' He is that ter-
rible product of our age, a good mechanical work-
man — labour without thought.'
A thin veil of smoke floated across the garden,
and there was a distinct smell of burning.
' Hullo ! What's that ? ' exclaimed Tony, going out
on the verandah, followed by the others.
The smoke came from the next garden, Number
Three, where Emily Darnton was standing in front of
a flaming pile of heterogeneous articles heaped
together on the lawn. As the dividing wall was low,
those on Basset's verandah had an excellent view of
the proceedings, while over the farther wall appeared
the heads belonging to the inmates of Number Four,
Rudell evidently amused, Parfitt faintly interested,
Mrs. Rudell indignant.
* Look at her ! ' she cried across the garden, indi-
86 Quality Corner
eating Emily. ' I call it positively crazy ! Why not
give the things away ? '
' Emily,' said Thea, with laughter in her voice,
* is it possible you are really burning your inherit-
ance ? '
' You see ! ' replied Miss Darnton briefly, and with
an air of triumph.
' But why not give them away ? ' reiterated Mrs.
' Because,' said Emily, addressing the Corner gen-
erally, ' I have been worried by them all my life, and
I am resolved so to dispose of them that I cannot see
them any more. Till now I have never been able
to please myself, and I am doing it.'
' What larks ! ' said Tony. ' Here, I'll help ! '
He got on the wall, and, dropping over on the
other side, seized something that protruded from the
blazing heap. It proved to be the pole of an old
screen, and he stirred vigorously.
' My dear,' interposed Basset mildly, ' do I see a
volume of Blair's sermons just catching fire?'
* Yes, Mr. Basset, you do,' Emily replied with stern
determination. ' I had to read these sermons aloud
to my aunt on wet Sundays. They are associated in
my mind with damp. This will dry them.'
* Spare their lives and give them to the curate,*
Thea suggested. ' He says he has considerable diffi-
culty with his sermons. Those would help him.'
* I might do that,' Emily twitched the singed vol-
ume out with a stick.
' No,' she said, regarding the book, ' I know these
sermons too well. If I heard even one sentence of
A Study of Remorse 87
them I should get up and walk out of church,' and
she pushed Blair back into the flames. ' I have always
wished to burn them. Sometimes I have even wished
to burn the man who wrote them.'
' This is terrible,' said Parfitt. ' Is there no one to
restrain her ? '
Mrs. Rudell leant over the wall to see better. ' I
think it is quite wicked of you, Emily.'
' I think so too,' Emily responded. ' That is why
I am enjoying it so much. I have been as good as
gold for twenty-five years, therefore it is a great re-
lief to do something at last that other people think
wrong. In fact, I know it is wrong. I ought to give
these things away. But I will not.'
' What are those other books ? ' asked Cassilis.
' Modern good books. Dr. Cassilis. I have also read
' What's this stuff that smells like singed flannel ? '
demanded Tony, holding up at the end of his pole a
' Wool mats Tony, and wool rugs to pull over your-
self when you go to sleep on the sofa. I never go to
sleep on the sofa.'
Occleston let the mass fall on the top of the pyre,
and energetically stirred the whole.
' Why, here's a clock ! ' said he.
'The cuckoo-clock!' ejaculated Mrs. Rudell.
' Emily, it is shameful of you ! Give me that clock
at once. I shall like to have it.'
' Not so ! ' Emily administered a rap that sent the
clock down into the midst of the flames. * I should
hear it through the wall, and when I came into your
88 Quality Corner
house. It used to sing " cuckoo " while I was read-
ing those sermons on wet Sundays till I could hardly
refrain from hurling it through the window.'
Here old Sol Ingers' white head appeared over
the gate at the end of Basset's garden.
* Is owt wrong, Basset ? ' he inquired in familiar
north-country fashion, ' th ' lads want to know if they
mun bring th' hose an' buckets.'
' It is all right, Sol, thank you. Miss Darnton is
only burning a few things in the garden.'
' Ay, 'tis a good way o' getting shut o' rubbish,'
responded the old man with evident curiosity ; ' but it
mout ha' been useful against th' Fifth o' November,
if yo' could ha' kept it till then. Miss Emily.'
' Oh, I could not keep a lot of books that are no
good to anybody,' cried Emily; and Sol returned to
his cronies with the information gained.
Emily Darnton's reply had been dictated by motives
of diplomacy. She did not wish the whole town to
know the exact constituents of that merrily blazing
pile. But the effect of her caution was to cover her
punctilious aunt's memory with wholly undeserved
' A-buming of books as is no good, an' a' Quality
Corner looking on? Eh, who'd ha' thowt it o' th'
owd lass ! Hoo mun ha' kept 'em i' th' garret an'
read 'em on th' sly. An' hoo that particular an'
church-going ! Dost tha mind how hoo gave owd Will
Clearly five shilhng because hoo heard him say he
didna know how to swear? Th owd chap nobbut
meant he'd lossen a' his front teeth, but th' owd lady
took it he wur pretty nigh a saint. An' to think hoo
A Study of Remorse 89
could keep books as wurna fit fur any Christian to
read ! Eh, I should never ha' thowt it ! ' But Sol
' Let be,' he said, ' yo ' conna tell how it wur. Hap-
pen they belonged to th' owd lass's grandfather. He
wur a rare un in his time, I've heard my father say.
An' if she did read 'em, what o' that? Theer's a
mort o' curious things in human nature.'
' I dunnot hold wi' it,' rejoined the first speaker
reflectively. ' If hoo did read 'em, I dunnot hold
' That may be,' said Sol, ' but theer's a sight o'
things yo' dunnot hold wi' as has to be reckoned wi'.
See theer, how th' smoke's rolling up! They're mak-
ing a rare pother.'
And all eyes dwelt interestedly on the dark column
rising skyward from Number Three.
Presently, however, the column sank. Owing to
Occleston's vigorous assistance the fire did its work
swiftly, and before long there remained only glowing
' Do you feel happier, Miss Darnton ? ' Cassilis in-
quired when Emily and Tony walked triumphantly
into Basset's drawing-room after their incendiary
* Much happier, thank you. Dr. Cassilis. I assure
you those books, the cuckoo-clock, and all the other
things quite depressed me. Every time I saw or heard
them I was reminded of dismal hours. At last I feel
' Susette will reproach you for ever about that clock,'
90 Quality Corner
' I only hope she will not buy one ! It is always
people who would not go a step to hear a real cuckoo
who buy those horrid mechanical noises.'
' A happy expression, my dear,' observed Basset
approvingly. ' You are perfectly correct. People do
buy noises. The vibration of the air caused by mech-
anism is always a noise, not a sound,'
* And I do not know why Susette should make
such a fuss,' Emily went on. ' She is so disagreeable
that one would suppose she was one's nearest rela-
tion! By the way, I hope that idea of the air being
a vast phonograph is not true. It is so uncomfort-
able. All one's words to be ground out at the Last
Day. Think of the things one has said of people ! '
' They will not be able to beat you,' said Tony con-
* But imagine their rage ! One's intimate friends,
' Then,' asked Thea, ' why say things you do not
wish to be ground out at the Last Day ? *
' Because it is my only chance of saying them.
If I do not utter them now they will never be uttered.'
' Well then,' said Basset, ' comfort yourself by the
reflection that you will suflfer in distinguished com-
pany. Even Moses spake unadvisedly, and did not
Arago remark of a brother astronomer that he was
the biggest scoundrel within the orbit of Neptune?
There is a conprehensiveness about that observation,'
pursued Basset meditatively, ' that I find extremely
' Yes,' said Cassilis, ' the mind is calmed by the
vastness of the sweep round our solar system.'
Emily jumped up. ' I must go, or I shall never
A Study of Remorse 91
be ready for the Galloways' dinner. Of course it will
be over by ten o'clock, their dinners always are. So
I shall be home by half-past, feeling very dull with
nobody to talk to. May I come in here, Mr. Basset ? '
' My dear, I am surprised that you should think
it necessary to ask. Number Two is open house to
all the Corner at all times. We shall expect both
you and Cassilis. Where are you going to spend the
evening, Anthony? Dine with us.'
' Thank you, Mr. Basset, I wish I could. But I
told George I'd be there to-night.'
* Give my love to Mary and the boys,' said Thea.
' I will not forget,' replied Occleston, as he and
Emily prepared to go.
Cassilis rose too. ' Then as I am permitted to
return later, I need not say good-bye.' He spoke to
Thea. ' Truly Ringway must be Elf -land if one never
says good-bye ! '
A FORTNIGHT of green sparkling days had
passed over Ringway — days that filled the air
with scent of grassy meadows ripening for the scythe ;
a scent that is the breath of the summer fields, a
honeyed mingling of clover and meadowsweet and
many hidden flowers, and the fainter perfume of the
tufted feathery grasses.
One sunny morning Mrs. Stretton announced her
intention of going over to the Moss Farm for the
purpose of inspecting June Heald.
' Well, tha'll find her in th' house,' responded
farmer Stretton, watching his cows filing out of the
shippon into the near meadow. ' Gresty tells me
hoo's a rare home-keeper. I'll drive thee o'er if tha
likes. I wur thinking o' taking a look at th' cow
Gresty wur talking o' sending to th' Show. I mout
send yon red un. I'll warrant he's none better than
that. Hoo's a real good un, an' as sensible as a
' That isna saying much fur th' beast,' observed
his wife drily.
Stretton opened his mouth to reply, but shut it
again without speaking. He was a married man of
many years' standing, and the wisdom of silence had
impressed itself on him.
'As fur Mrs. Heald,' continued Mrs. Stretton, 'I
A Study of Remorse 93
dunnot want to hear what Gresty says about th'
woman. I've given her toime to settle down an' redd
up th' place, an' now I'm going to see fur mysen.
Little Joe's my godson an' I con take him a cake.
If tha'rt going o'er theer, it'll save me th' walk.'
* A' reet,' replied Stretton, ' I've nowt to do betwixt
three an' five. We'll start at three.'
So that afternoon farmer Stretton's old white
mare trotted along the deep lanes and past the little
wood to the Moss Farm. The quiet homestead
seemed basking in the hush of the summer afternoon.
Pigeons cooed on the roof, white ducks swam lazily
round the pond that reflected the shining blue above,
and in the roomy porch old Martha sat sewing, while
the two youngest children played beside her.
Mrs. Stretton, sitting bolt upright, a basket on her
arm containing little Joe's cake, surveyed the scene
* It looks reet enow,' she observed to her husband
as they drove up. ' If I'd ha' found Mrs. Heald
sitting in the porch while owd Martha wur busy i'
th' house, I shouldna ha' thowt much on her.'
* Theer's th' owd lass running indoors to tell her
we're coming,' said Stretton, ' I'll go an' look up
Gresty, an' leave yo' an' her to talk awhile.'
June Heald came out into the sunshine to meet
her visitors. If Gresty had fitly compared his late
wife to a pansy, then June might be said to suggest
lavender. There was about her an atmosphere of
serene homeliness and quiet comfort, just as lavender
calls up the idea of simple country freshness and
'Ay, I knew hoo'd be good-looking,' Mrs. Stretton
94 Quality Corner
muttered triumphantly, as she noted June's blue eyes
and pink cheeks and smooth bands of brown hair.
' How d'ye do, Mrs. Heald ? ' said Stretton, getting
down. ' My wife thowt hoo'd loike to see little Joe,
being her godson, an' I'd a word to say to Gresty, so
here we are.'
' I'm sure I'm very pleased to see yo'. I'm greatly
indebted to your husband fur his kindness in bringing
me here, Mrs. Stretton.'
' Well, it wur about toime some sensible body wur
looking after th' children,' replied Mrs. Stretton in
friendly tones, gratified by being thus deferentially
addressed. ' Not but what Martha did her best, poor
owd lass. Now, Joe,' as a small boy ran up and
clutched her ample skirts, ' I've browt thee a cake,
but Mrs. Heald '11 give it thee by-and-by.'
' Yo'U come into th' parlour and ha' a cup of tea ? '
said June. ' Th' kettle's boiling.'
Farmer Stretton, having ascertained that Gresty
was at work in the upland field, betook himself
thither, and his wife followed June through the
kitchen, across the hall, and into the parlour. Here
Mrs. Stretton seated herself on a sofa, untied her
bonnet-strings, and looked round with keen eyes.
The furniture had been newly polished, but nothing
had been moved from the place it had occupied
during the late Mrs. Gresty's lifetime. Even the bits
of old china, heirlooms in the Gresty family, stood
each on its own wool mat on the sideboard at equal
distances as heretofore. This, Mrs. Stretton con-
sidered, showed proper feeling on June's part. It
was not for her, being yet a stranger, to make any
changes in the home. If she married Gresty, then
A Study of Remorse 95
indeed she might do as she pleased. Till then she
was only in the house on sufferance as it were.
Therefore this evidence of June's meekness inclined
Mrs. Stretton to look favourably upon the stranger,
so that when June appeared with the tea-tray it was
with real cordiality that her visitor exclaimed :
' Now, Mrs. Heald, you'd no call to get out th' best
china fur me ! '
' I'm sure Mr. Gresty would wish it, Mrs. Stretton.
A friend o' th' family like yoursen.'
' Well, they're pretty cups. I wur always fond o'
lilac colour, an' th' gold rims set it off. They be-
longed to owd Mrs. Gresty, Gresty's mother. Hoo
browt a sight o' good china here when hoo wur
' 'Tis pleasant to ha' things o' one's own to leave
behind yo',' and there was a thrill of regret in June's
Mrs. Stretton glanced sharply at her, but with
' Ay, I reckon yo' happened on a husband as got
rid o' everything. It's a real comfort to think he got
rid o' hissen at last, fur it's nowt but waste o' time
to wed a chap o' that sort. Yo're well shut on him.
Yo'll be comfortable enow here, an' Gresty's easy-
going in th' house.'
' I have not been so comfortable sin' I wur a lass
at home,' replied June earnestly. ' I wur brought up
at a farm, so it a' seems like th' owd times come
back. 'Tis a real treat to me to take to the baking
again after years o' baker's bread. Do yo' find th'
bread good, Mrs. Stretton? I'm not sure that I've
got my hand in yet.'
g6 Quality Corner
* Th' bread couldna be better, Mrs. Heald. I wur
just thinking to say so.'
And thus the two women arrived at an excellent
understanding. Away in the upland field Stretton
was listening to the recital of June's many virtues.
* Ay,' finished Gresty, ' tha did me a good turn
when tha picked her up. Me an' th' little uns are as
happy as bees i' clover, an' as fur owd Martha, hoo's
living loike a lady sin' Mrs. Heald coom.'
'Well,' said Stretton, 'why doan't thee marry her?
Tha couldna do better. A good-looking woman as
con manage th' house an' th' children comfortable.
What more dost tha want ? '
' Nowt,' said Gresty emphatically.
* Then if I wur thee, I'd ask her reet off an' put up
th' banns next Sunday. Mrs. Heald seems to ha'
settled down i' th' place. Hoo'll noan be like to keep
thee waiting. A widow-woman isna skittish like a
lass, Tha could be wed in less'n a month, an' then it
'ud be off thy moind afore th' oats want cutting.'
' Theer's summat i' that,' responded Gresty. ' It's
a bit moithering fur a chap to be thinking o' getting
wed, even if it isna first toime.'
* Ay, it is. Sometimes I've thowt happen winter's
th' best season fur marrying; nigh on Christmas.'
Gresty shook his head. ' Nay, nay — summer's th'
toime fur sweethearting, when th' sun's a-shining, an'
th' birds a-singing an' warm evenings fur to stroll in.'
* True, true. I loike a bit o' romance mysen. Eh,
it seems nobbut yesterday sin' I wur a slim young
chap sitting whistling on a stile wi' my billycock a'
on one soide an' a sprig o' honeysuckle i' th' band,
an' white gloves for Sundays. Ay, them gloves! I
A Study of Remorse 97
mind 'em well. My mother wouldna wash 'em ; hoo
said hoo'd enow to do wi'out moithering- o'er a lad's
finery. So one day I made shift to wash 'em mysen,
an' a muddling job I wur making on't, when up coom
that strapping lass o' Will Fitton's, her that married
th' sergeant an' went to India. Well, hoo laughed
fit to kill hersen when hoo caught sight o' me all o'er
soapsuds, an' I wur as red as a pseony wi' her looking
an' laughing. However, hoo offered to wash 'em fur
me, an' thankful I wur. Hoo gave 'em to me on
th' Saturday, a' ironed an' white as a daisy. I give
her a kiss fur doing 'em, an' hoo fetched me a slap
on th' cheek as fair echoed! I con feel that theer
slap this minute. Eh,' with a prodigious sigh, * young
days is good days, Gresty. Theer isna a lass i' th'
country as 'ud think it worth while to slap my face
' O' course middle-age is middle-age,' responded
Gresty, ' but theer's summat to be said fur it too. I
loike to see th' children running about an' playing
an' growing bigger, an' th' owd place same as ever it
wur, only snugger an' a' that.'
* So do I, so do I. But it isna th' same thing.
When a man's young he thinks he con kick th' world
about as he loikes, an' when he's owd he finds it kicks
him. That's about th' size on't. A' th' same, Gresty,
I'd advise thee to wed Mrs. Heald.'
' I'll do it.'
The same idea dominated Mrs. Stretton's mind as
she and her husband drove home in the mellow evening
' Gresty couldna do better than marry Mrs. Heald,
as fur as I con see,' she observed, as the old white
98 Quality Corner
mare climbed the hill and the Moss Farm sank out
of sight in the green valley. * Hoo isna loike a flighty
lass. Hoo looks after th' children well, as I con see
mysen, an' hoo knows farm ways. Seems to me hoo
wur regular cut out for Gresty.'
' That's what I've been telling him,' said Stretton,
' an' he's about made up his mind. That'll be a good
match o' my making ! ' with pride.
' Trust thee men fur ha'ing a good opinion o'
theesen. What about th' cow ? '
' Th' cow Gresty's going to send to th' Show.
Tha said tha wur going to look at it.'
' Eh, I never gave a thowt to it/ said Stretton
' Thee two men wur that busy talking o' Mrs.
Heald tha never thowt o' th' cow ? Well, I never ! '
Stretton prudently abstained from attempting to
justify his forgetfulness.
THE following morning an accident happened at
the Moss Farm. Little Joe tumbled off a wag-
gon and broke his arm, and June's distress was great.
' Dunno fret thysen, Mrs. Heald/ said Gresty in-
specting his offspring, ' I'll go up to th' town an'
send th' new doctor. He looks loike a gentleman, an'
owd Sol Ingers speaks well on him. Eh, Joe, how
oft have I towd thee to leave climbing on th' waggons.
Now tha sees what it ends in ! '
Joe whimpered. * Will th' doctor cut it off ? '
* Thy arm ? Well, reckon he willna this toime, but
th' next toime tha does it, th' arm'U come off sure
enow. Seeing as it's market day, Mrs. Heald, I
dunnot think as I'll coom back wi' th' doctor. If he
isna here presently, happen tha'll send one o' th' men
to hurry him a bit.'
But Cassilis did not need hurrying. He was at
breakfast when Gresty arrived, and refusing the far-
mer's offer of ' th' cart,' walked to the Moss Farm
through the green dewiness of the morning. He was
faintly curious to see the woman who had drifted
hither, — Gresty had not mentioned her name — who
had once lived in Bramsall, that murky city on which
Cassilis looked back as Dante looked back on the
hell he had traversed. And Cassilis had the greater
reason for his horror. The hell of Dante was but the
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shadow of reality, whereas the hell of that earthly
city was the reality itself. Yet as he walked up the
hill where he had walked that night beneath the
Scorpion's Heart with Thea, and down into the green
scented valley where the Moss Farm lay like a pipit's
nest in a meadow, as he so walked he felt no lessening
of that strange exhilaration with which Ringway had
filled his veins. He did not suppose the stranger was
anyone whom he had known in Bramsall. Nay, he
did not think, he did not care. We are told that
Damocles did not enjoy his supper after he had seen
the sword. Why not? Did the glitter overhead make
the wine less cool, the honey less sweet? But
Damocles was Greek. To grimmer blood that im-
pending death would but have added a keener zest to
the banquet. Did ever Englishman eat less for a
bullet or two singing through his tent? There is
much in the story of Achilles' heel. It was there that
he was vulnerable; that is, a Greek might run away;
the thing was possible. But in the old Saga, the
Viking Sigurd was vulnerable only between his
shoulders ; which suggests one's back to a wall and
a semi-circle of dead.
Cassilis did not care. He did not say so to him-
self, he did not seek to analyse his feelings. He was
in a dream, his dream of rest. Nay, it was no dream.
He was awake and resting and happy.
So he turned the corner of the little wood where
the blackbird was singing and came face to face with
June Heald. She was standing by the farm gate,
shading her eyes from the sun as she watched for the
coming of the doctor, whose name she had not heard.
Cassilis was not surprised, he seemed to have known
A Study of Remorse lOi
it all along in some vague way. His first thought
was that of course the woman from Bramsall could
be none other than Jane Stanham ; his second, being
naturally a gentle compassionate man, was that he
was glad to see her looking so much better and
happier. For he recollected her as a miserable girl
married to a brutal idle collier, and earning both his
living and her own by letting lodgings in a back street
where a blast-furnace roared night and day, filling
the air with noise and flame. That was ten years
ago, and here was the frightened over-worked girl,
CassiHs's former landlady, grown into a placid fair-
faced woman, here in the cool green country all fresh-
ness and peace.
' Why, Mrs. Stanham ! ' said Cassilis, ' is it really
you? I am very glad to see you so comfortably placed.'
' Yes indeed, sir, an' I couldna believe th' sight o'
my own eyes when I saw you coming along by th'
wood just now. To think as it should be you ! '
' It is curious,' he assented.
' An' I call myself Mrs. Heald here, please sir.
Heald was my maiden name, an' I never had any luck
when I wur Stanham.'
' Quite right, Mrs. Heald. I'll not forget. Where is
the boy? — my patient, I mean. '
Little Joe was disposed to howl at the sight of the
dreaded doctor, but became reassured, and submittted
to treatment with greater equanimity than was ex-
pected. Perhaps his self control was assisted by the
half envious faces of his five brothers and sister who
stood in a group at the end of the room, gazing sol-
emnly at the doctor's movements, and feeling, one and
all, that fate had made Joe much too important.
I02 Quality Corner
' I will look in to-morrow.' said Cassilis, as he rose to
go. ' This is a pretty place, Mrs. Heald.'
' It is, sir,' June was walking with him to the gate.
' I wur telling Mrs. Stretton yesterday that I wur glad
to be at a farm again, being browt up at one when I
wur a girl, as I think you have heard me say, sir.'
' Yes. I remember,'
They had reached the gate now. June stood by
it, a slight hesitation visible in her manner.
' If you willna mind, sir,' she said, ' I'll not tell th'
folks about my letting lodgings an' my husband being
always drunk an' raging an' a' that. Not as I'm
ungrateful fur a' you an' poor Mr. Thorold did fur me.
If you two gentlemen hadna been lodging wi' me then,
I conna tell whatever I should ha' done. But I've left
th' place behind me, an' I'd like to leave a' that behind
me too, an' not be answering folk's questions about it.
An' besides my own troubles, sir, poor Mr. Thorold's
poisoning himself accidental was what might seem
awkward like, an' I dunnot care fur to be talking it
o'er wi' folks here, which I shall ha' to do if I begin
speaking o' my lodgers. Fur if I talk o' one, say
you, sir, why I'm bound to mention th' other, Mr.
Thorold an' it a' seems such a muddle, sir. An' I
had to appear at th' inquest, an' altogether, sir, I conna
see the need fur saying owt.'
* I will say nothing, Mrs. Heald. But how was
it that you did not send for me at the inquest? I
have always blamed myself for going away that
' It wur I that persuaded you, sir. Seeing that
th' poor gentleman was gone an' yo' couldna do any
A Study of Remorse 103
good, it seemed a pity you should stay for naught an'
lose th' appointment you were seeking. Yo' gave me
an address, sir, if yo' recollect. I could ha' sent fur
yo', but I didna see th' use.'
' I lost the appointment after all,' said Cassilis.
' I reached Irthdale all right, but I fell ill that night
with fever, and was laid up for six weeks. As soon
as I was better I went back to Bramsall, as I could
not understand not having heard from you; but I
found your house empty and closed, and your neigh-
bours did not know where you had gone.'
' I'm sure it wur main good of yo' to come back,
sir. Things wur this way. My husband never came
home that night, an' next day I found he wur i'
custody for nigh killing a man. Then theer wur th'
inquest on poor Mr. Thorold. The coroner didna
ask me many questions. I reckon he saw I wur pretty
Vt^ell worrited to death, fur he knew about my hus-
band being locked up. I said my other lodger — 3'ou,
sir — wur gone, an' I suppose th' coroner thought you
had gone before it happened. It didna seem worth
while fur to say you was there, and' to fetch you
back fur just nothing; fur what good could yo' ha'
done, sir ? '
' I was glad not to appear at the inquiry.'
As he spoke, Cassilis looked away up the green
valley, understanding now what he had previously
suspected — that this woman's kindly hand had drawn
a veil of silence between him and that fatal night.
He and his dead friend had been good to her and
she was grateful, and had kept silence lest the ap-
pointment for which he had hoped should be lost
I04 Quality Corner
by her speaking, and so causing his immediate re-
It had been lost, and Cassilis had not regretted its
loss. He had been thankful for the illness that had
given him brief oblivion. Then, barely recovered, he
had hastened back to that city of death, only to be
confronted by an empty house. From that point began
' Yo' wur best away, sir. Yo' could ha' done
nothing,' went on June's quiet voice. ' Theer wur
naught to be done. Two lawyer gentlemen came fro'
Mr. Thorold's friends. I heard the name o' one o'
them; it wur Rudell.'
' Rudell ! ' repeated Cassilis, startled ; ' a Mr. Rudell
lives close to me at Number Four, Quality Corner.
He is a lawyer.'
'Indeed sir? But if he's th' same he'll scarce
know me, I'm that different now. He wur talking
to th' other gentleman, saying he'd only just heard o'
th' death. It wur th' other gentleman that took Mr.
' To be buried, sir. Nigh his own folk. Some-
where in Lincolnshire, I wur told.'
' Ah yes, of course.'
' An' then, sir, when it wur a' o'er an' poor Mr.
Thorold gone an' a', theer wur my husband committed
fur trial. He'd been locked up a' the time since that
night, as I told you. Well, I didna care to take any
more lodgers. I thowt happen I shouldna like 'em
after yo' an' Mr. Thorold, so I sold th' furniture an'
went to lodge wi' a woman at th' other side o' th'
town. That wur how yo' found th' house empty, sir,
A Study of Remorse 105
when yo' came back, fur I left it in less'n a month
fro' that night an' I didna tell th' neighbours where
I wur going.'
' I see.'
' Th' woman I lodged wi'/ June resumed, ' took
in sewing, an' I helped. My husband got three years,
an' when he came out o' jail I wur silly enow to let
him ha' th' furniture money, an' he off to America
wi' it. An' I wur glad on't,' said June frankly. ' I
wur fair wore out wi' him. I reckon he's theer now,
fur I've heerd naught of him since. I stayed wi' th'
sewing woman till she died an' then I couldna think
where to go, when a' on a sudden it came to me that
I were free to please mysen an' go back into th'
country, like as if I wur a girl again. So I called
mysen Heald, my old name, sir, an' here I am.'
* And here I hope you will stay, Mrs. Heald. I
only came to Ringway a fortnight ago, but it seems
to me a peaceful, happy place.'
' It does, sir. I am sure I wish you good luck in it.
An' are you married, sir? '
' I ! — oh no.' The question was a natural one, but
marriage had been so little in Cassilis's thoughts during
the past ten years that he felt quite surprised. ' Oh,
no. I have wandered about from place to place a
good deal since I last saw you, and have never been
rich enough to marry. In fact, I have never stayed
anywhere for any length of time. Perhaps I may
settle here. I hope so. I like the town.'
' I'm sure I hope so too, sir. Wandering seems
weary work. Maybe it's different for a gentleman.'
' No, it is not, Mrs. Heald,' said Cassilis, ' I too have
found it weary.' And though he smiled as he spoke,
io6 Quality Corner
there was a pathetic ring in his voice that contradicted
A brief silence followed ; that is, a silence of human
speech. In the heart of a cherry-tree a blackbird was
singing, each note falling into the green stillness like
a diamond; and Cassilis, listening unconsciously,
thinking of all he had just heard, yet felt no clouding
of his spirit's sunshine ; but rather a greater content-
ment, a curious completeness — as though life were
over and the rest and forgiveness of Paradise begun.
For ten years he had not heard his dead friend's
name uttered. Here, where he had thought to find
Lethe, the past had risen suddenly — unexpectedly.
Ringway had promised forget fulness, and in seeming
elfin mockery had broken that promise Yet the
broken promise failed to disturb the strange serenity
of Cassilis's mind. How could he have hoped for —
dreamt of forgetfulness when no such thing exists?
But one might be happy even though Lethe is a
myth. How beautiful the world was ! The shining
valley, the wood-crowned hill, the hidden blackbird
dropping those diamond notes among the cherry
' I think,' he said, turning to June Heald with a
smile, ' this must be the end of my wanderings. I do
not know when I have felt so content.'
The words struck ominously on June's ears. She
believed that when any man spoke thus, misfortune
' I will come to-morrow morning,' he went on.
' If the boy does not seem well, send for me this
' Thank you, sir.'
A Study of Remorse 107
Cassilis nodded and walked away. As he climbed
the hill a cloud sailing overhead suddenly darkened
to indigo and a summer shower came on, a shower so
heavy that he turned into the woods for shelter from
RINGWAY WOODS were a lingering fragment
of the dense forest that once stretched across
the country; the green home of red squirrel, wild cat
and grey wolf ; the home too of innumerable birds and
happy living things.
But with the clearing of the forest, grey wolf and
wild cat have vanished long ago. The red squirrels
and the brown owls are following them. Fewer
ringdoves coo in the fir-tops, fewer woodpeckers tap
the gnarled trunks of the old trees. And thus the
air, less purified by the living green, becomes yearly
less invigorating, less healthful, less fit for human
This Ringway fragment of the old forest was
beautiful indeed; from its soil of sandy peat, so soft
and elastic to the tired foot, to the leafy crowns of its
forest giants of beech and chestnut, elm and yew.
As Cassilis passed under their sheltering arms the
swift patter of the rain on the open path changed to
a sibilant murmur overhead — Keats 's ' whispering roof
He paused for a moment beside the smooth bole
of a beech, then saw before him an immense chestnut,
with buttressed trunk and spreading fans that gently
waved like beckoning green fingers. And in its shade
A Study of Remorse 109
' May I share your shelter ? ' he asked, crossing
the intervening space. ' This troll-weather of yours
is so erratic that one never knows whether it is a
morning in Eden or the eve of the Flood.'
' Or a passing freak of this workaday world,' sug-
' There is no workaday world in Ringway,' Cassilis
replied gravely. * Did you tell me that, or have I dis-
covered it for myself ? '
' What matters, since you know it ? '
As when they had met by the church in the early
morning on the second day of his coming, so now
Cassilis again noticed that Thea asked no questions
as to where he had been, from whence he had come.
Perhaps this indifference as to daily doings, joined
with her peculiar insight as regarded thought and
feeling, constituted a great part of the charm of Thea's
society. For how restful is a comrade who never asks
questions, who has no curiosity as to your doings ; who
gives the soothing airy companionship of the butterfly
that accompanies you down the lane, now fluttering
low over bank, now flying ahead, now lingering on the
honeysuckle in the hedge, yet always keeping in its
beautiful effortless flight within easy friendly distance
of its human comrade.
Perhaps a lonely man like Cassilis, unused to having
his movements commented on, felt this charm of non-
interrogation more than one less solitary might have
done. The quality had a curious effect on people. It
either strongly attracted or strongly repelled. Parfitt,
for instance, was distinctly offended by it. He was
accustom.ed to women crowding round him, asking
him a thousand questions; accustomed to have his
no Quality Corner
goings and comings chronicled in the society papers.
Naturally his vanity was ruffled when he was not
interrogated as to his hours of work, the particular
train he travelled by, the books, places, and persons
he liked best.
But Cassilis, unknown and a wanderer, had the
wanderer's instinct of friendliness devoid of curiosity,
and he responded to like friendhness as the swallow
responds to the spring.
They were standing close to the rugged chestnut
trunk. Beyond the wide circumference of the
branches the rain now fell in a thick veil of white
water, through which the woodland shimmered in
blurred outlines, as though frozen glass. Here and
there through the leafy roof overhead a heavy water-
drop fell like a fairy bullet, making the fine sand fly
where it struck.
Cassilis glanced up, and Thea's eyes followed his
' It is nothing,' she said, ' only a few drops. Rain
never comes through more than that. This is my
' Surely it must be the Tree of Knowledge, for I
see a book in that hole just above your head. A
modern novel, too. Truly a wonderful tree ! '
'One likes a change of society at times,' she said.
' The chief use of books seems to me to be that of
supplying one with an endless series of fascinating
' Quite so. But '
' But that book is modern, and I said I seldom
read anything modem. True, I am not consistent.
A Study of Remorse 1 1 1
Is consistency expected in Domremy? This is the
forest of Domremy.'
' I am sure it is. I was only about to ask if you
kept all your library in this same Domremy; is every
tree trunk a book-case ? '
' In a sense — yes. Though I only put the book
there to keep it from the rain.'
' A most elfin refuge. I wonder you did not step
' The woodpeckers might not like that,' she replied
gravely. ' They nest there every spring. In the win-
ter, dormice sleep in the empty nest. Even now some
small creature may have taken the furnished hole for
awhile. It is deeper than it looks ; the book is resting
on a ledge halfway.'
Cassilis looked, not at the much-tenanted hollow,
but at his companion. Hers was that beauty which
is always beautiful, and it seemed heightened by the
unreal effect produced by the sudden storm. The
straight white rain still surrounded them as with
walls of glass, and through it the light from the
slowly-brightening sky struck upward under the deep
green of the chestnut as the light strikes up into a
deep-sea cave. In this strange pale radiance Thea's
brilliant eyes were as wells that gathered up the
light; the smooth almond of her skin seemed illu-
mined ; the brown waves of her hair took shifting
shadows ; the sinuous lines of her figure half melted
into the gloom of the massive trunk against which she
stood, as her voice blended with the sound of the fall-
ing rain on leaves and grass.
As has been said, the unexpected meeting with June
Heald that morning had in no wise disturbed the sin-
112 Quality Corner
gular elation that had lately swept over Cassilis. True,
the aroused memories had stirred the very depths of
his soul, but the result was an added exaltation, a sen-
sation of being on the point of reaching some long-
desired goal — the feeling of the runner the instant be-
fore the start. And combined with these, an equally
singular calm, a loss of fever and fret, a renewal of
happy irresponsible youth. All this, and the swift
storm, the strange light, Thea's presence: in short,
Cassilis was ' fey.'
' Tell me some more,' he said. ' Read me the runes
on the leaves since you acknowledge the woods are
your library. Surely you are the Fairy Melusina and
la" prisoner pent in walls of glass." '
' These walls of glass will vanish as rapidly as those
of Jericho in less than ten minutes,' she replied with a
sudden smile like summer lightning. ' As for my
woodland library, it is simply association. Have you
never given "to airy nothings a local habitation"?
For instance, that tall fir you see through the rain is
Ariel's cloven pine; near it is the mossy stump on
which Coleridge's Hermit oflfered up his orisons. Out
of that thicket to the left Comus comes with his rabble
of monsters. Bayard and the Red Cross Knight ride
along that glade on the right, followed by all our dead
heroes. Under that yew Savonarola sits meditating,
while Fra Angelico stands by him watching a butterfly,
whose wings he thinks will do for the Angel Gabriel.'
' But how ? — why ? ' began Cassilis.
' Oh, quite simply. When I was a child I was very
lucky in never possessing any of those Dead Sea Ap-
ples called children's books. I cannot remember when
I learnt to read. I seem always to have been able to
A Study of Remorse 113
read. Also, I never had a spelling book. When I
saw one. It seemed to me foolish, for if you can read,
^ou see the words, and can consequently spell them.
Perhaps I was a born speller.'
' Some are born spellers, some achieve spelling, and
some have spelling thrust upon them,' remarked her
* Precisely. Well, Comus is the first book I remem-
ber reading. That I did not understand half the words
was of no consequence. I made out the story. The
poem attracted me by the pictures in it, the mental pic-
tures, I mean. I could perfectly comprehend and im-
agine the violet-embroidered vale, the wood, the shep-
herd's hut, the palace of Comus, and the stream under
which Sabrina sat knitting lilies into her hair. By the
way, I will show you that stream some day.'
' Do,' said Cassilis. ' I should like to see it. Please
* The next things I remember are Manfred, Tam o'
Shanter, and a translation of the Agamemnon. A
most curious mixture, but I absorbed everything as a
matter of course. I revelled in them all. I called
up the Spirit of the Alps with Manfred, rode head-
long from the witches with the immortal Tam, and
hailed the beacon fires with the watchman at Mycenae.
Later, when I was ten, I saved up my pocket-money
and bought a second-hand copy of Sale's Koran. It
rather disappointed me. I thought it distinctly in-
ferior to the Arabian Nights.'
' So it is. What is Mahomet's camel beside Prince
Hoosein's carpet? And the Prophet's adventures are
trivial compared to those of the Third Calender.'
' I see you understand. Now what are two of the
114 Quality Corner
most beautiful sights in the world? Frost on the
briar on a sunny autumn morning, and sunshine on
falling rain. The last you are just going to see —
look ! '
The rain was ceasing, falling not now like thick
spun glass, but in a thin veil of sparkling waterdrops,
The storm-clouds were passing. Away to the south
shone a widening rift of blue and a dazzle of sunlight,
changing the woodland beneath it to vivid emerald.
On swept the spreading brightness, chasing the clouds,
till it burst on the chestnut, and all the world was
wrapped in diamond light, as though a rainbow had
broken and fallen in innumerable scintillating sparks.
The rain was over, but not gone. It dripped in
glittering rivulets from every leaf and spray. Rain-
drops ran along the bracken fronds and hung in
trembling points of vari-coloured light from the
bending tips. Every tiny blade of grass had its jewel,
and every jewel its changing brilliance. Now sap-
phire, as it reflected only the blue overhead; now
emerald, taking its hue from its resting place; now
purest diamond, now orient ruby red.
' This is the heart of a rainbow,' said Thea. ' Come
out into the path and try whether you can walk to that
tree blindfolded. Everyone tries. It is the duty of
every dweller in Ringway.'
They passed out of the shade of the chestnut into the
glittering sunlit open. Before them the short fine
sward sloped downwards to where, at the bottom of
the grassy hollow, stood a solitary ash, the tree in ques-
tion. Beyond it the ground rose again to a height
parallel to where they were standing, and crowned
with dense woodland.
A Study of Remorse 1 1 5
' Perhaps I may fall into a rabbit-hole ; they look
very large just about here,' Cassilis remarked as a
handkerchief was being bound round his eyes.
' I will fetch somebody to dig you out. There !
Now you are ready.'
Going down the slope, Cassilis wondered whether
any patient might arrive unexpectedly on the scene,
and behold his grave doctor wandering about in Blind-
man's Buff fashion. But Cassilis said to himself that
he * didn't care ' and he didn't. He seemed to have
reached the bottom of the grassy hollow, yet he felt
no tree. He turned to the right; in vain. Then
walked determinedly to the left, and heard Thea's soft
laugh beside him.
* Oh, you are far away from the ash,' she said.
* Just as far as anybody else ! '
He pulled off the handkerchief and looked round.
The tree stood some distance to the right. He had
walked into a grove of beeches, where the sunshine
dappled the brown withered beech-mast underfoot.
' Listen ! ' said Thea.
A steady tapping sounded through the rustling of
' A woodpecker,' said Cassilis, looking up the smooth
beech-boles for the bird.
' Not so. This is the castle of the Thane of Glamis
and Cawdor, and you hear the knocking at the gate :
" Wake Duncan with thy knocking ? I would thou
couldst ! " '
This time the elf-arrow — sped so unconsciously —
struck deep. The shaft was feathered by the memories
that June Heald's words had aroused. Also Cassilis
was again startled by that odd elusive resemblance of
ii6 Quality Corner
Thea to someone whom he had once known. The turn
of the head, the way in which she uttered the words;
whom did she resemble?
* Ah yes,' he said, and looking up into the beeches,
he repeated the quotation, ' Wake Duncan with thy
knocking ? I would thou couldst ! '
His listener regarded him thoughtfully. She was
struck by the peculiar intensity with which he spoke.
* You say it well/ she observed. ' The association
was created for me by my father — my real father, I
mean. Once I came here with him, and he talked of
that scene while a woodpecker was tapping, just as
now. So I never hear a woodpecker without thinking
of evil-hearted Glamis. But let us forget the Thane.
Come out of the castle. I am going to make a ball of
bracken. Did you ever see one ? '
She ran out from under the beeches into a grassy
space and gathered a handful of fern. Cassilis fol-
lowed, but paused at the edge of the grove where the
brown mast met the turf.
' Do you think,' he asked, * that the treachery of the
Thane could ever be pardoned — by Duncan ? '
' By Duncan ? ' echoed Thea, looking across the sun-
lit space to where he stood in the shadow. ' Ah, that
is a question one cannot answer. There is the treach-
ery, you see.'
* Yes, there is the treachery.' He came out into the
sunlight. ' Where are we now ? We have left the
' This is Arcadia, and we are going to play at ball.
He caught the little green globe that was thrown
to him, and turned it over and over.
A Study of Remorse 117
* This is most deftly woven. One would imagine a
bird had made it. How is it done ? '
' The ball has not been made to gratify curiosity,
but for use,' replied Thea gravely. ' Throw it back.'
He did so, and again it was flung to him through
the sunshiny air.
The beech-grove was left behind. A wide sandy
path led away through the wet bright woods, and
along this Thea and Cassilis passed as merrily as the
chaffinches that twittered overhead. What if his fairy
gold seemed changing to withered leaves, his fairy
wine beginning to burn, his fairy music sounding like
a knell? He was still in the rainbow's heart, and his
own beat gaily; perhaps all the more gaily for the
memories within it, and the weary past. The blacker
the cloud, the lovelier the bow.
So he followed Thea along the sun-dappled glades,
and the ball of bracken flew lightly from hand to hand.
' You catch it with both hands as though it were a
heavy cricket ball,' she cried. ' Look at me! I catch
it with one.'
' There is nothing to catch,' protested Cassilis. ' It
is like seizing gossamer. I am obliged to use both
hands or my fingers would go through it. You must
admit I make it fly.'
Here he threw the globe of woven fern with such
superfluous energy that it soared into a larch and re-
mained suspended on a twig high over their heads.
' There, what will you do now ? ' asked his com-
Cassilis stopped beneath the larch and looked up.
' I could climb the tree easily. My only doubt is
whether that bough would bear me.'
ii8 Quality Corner
' I am sure it would not. We must leave the ball up
' Make another,' he suggested.
Thea shook her head smilingly.
' The ball-playing is over. Nothing repeats itself.
We are at the end of our game and at the end of the
CassiHs came out of Arcadia with a sigh.
' Ah, this workaday world ! ' he said. ' How shall
we return to it ? '
' Through this oat-field,' replied Thea, slipping be-
tween the irregularly placed stumps that served in lieu
of a stile.
' That is so,' agreed Cassilis. ' The oats mean human
labour, the woods do not. Only in the forest is one
free from toil.' He looked back along the glimmering
green aisles they had traversed. ' Yes, the hunter's
life is best. You go out with your gun and shoot
something, bring it home and your wife cooks it. All
so simple. So much better than this frightful tur-
' Where is the turmoil ? '
' In oneself. No, not now. I have been very happy
since I have been in Ringway. I am happy. I speak
of the past. When a man comes out of a fight and sits
down to rest, his thoughts naturally turn back to the
' Why ? Better to live in the present.'
' It is all present. There is neither past nor future.'
His thoughts rose up like strong under-currents
heaving to the surface, and it seemed easy to speak
them in the light of those dark eyes meeting his own.
He did not ask himself why it seemed so easy ; he only
A Study of Remorse 119
felt a sense of repose, an impulse to utter the words
that sprang to his lips without pausing to consider
those words. Years ago — ten years ago, the same
repose, the same impulse had been his when in the
presence of his friend Thorold ; but that he did not
remember. Or rather, he remembered it dimly as in a
dream — a pleasant dream returning.
' Past and present may seem one, for we know both,'
said Thea, * but not the future. Who can tell the
future ? '
' That is true : ' he glanced back again at the woods
as he followed her along the narrow path down the
field. ' Yet the hunter's life must needs be happy,
season following season in the free forest.'
' Your wife might get tired of staying indoors cook-
' Oh, I would help her. We could make pies to last
' Hunters have no pies. For pies, cornfields are
' So they are! Well then, rice puddings.'
* I should like,' said Thea decisively, ' to put the
entire medical profession on rice puddings for six
weeks as their sole diet. I never yet knew a doctor
who did not prescribe rice pudding, though I am posi-
tive he never tasted one since he wore petticoats.'
' They are wholesome,' pleaded Cassilis.
' I doubt that ! People v/ho eat rice puddings are
invariably cross. How, then, can the said puddings
be wholesome ? '
' Well, I give it up. I give up all puddings and
pies. The hunter's life is the best.'
' You are a sportsman ? '
lao Quality Corner
* I was, long ago/
' I thought so. I noticed the way you looked about
in the woods, as though you expected to see a partridge
under every fern and a pheasant on every bough/
' Miss Darnton would say I had given up killing
things out of doors, and taken to killing things in-
' Anything for a change ! ' observed Thea lightly.
' Now that is too bad ! '
' I do not mean it/ She turned in the narrow path
and walked backwards, her gown brushing the oats on
either side. ' What do you suppose is going to happen
when we reach the lane beyond this field ? '
' I have not the least idea. The charm of life in
Ringway consists in its unexpectedness/
' A carriage will come along the lane, and Daddy in
it. I arranged to meet him there. He has gone to
Outwood. Will you drive home with us ? '
' I wish I could, but I have a patient to see near the
lake, Pugh by name.'
' I know him by sight. He believes that the earth is
flat, and disapproves of preserving game.'
* That's the man.'
Thea stopped in her backward walk and looked
over the waving oats at the glitter of water on the
' There is Outwood,' she said. ' The house is old
and delightful. Do you know the mere ? '
* Only this side of it. Is not that Mr. Basset's
carriage in the lane ? '
It was, and Basset in it.
' Well met,' he said. ' Come back to Outwood with
us, Cassilis. I have just been telling Occleston that
A Study of Remorse 121
he ought to send for you to look at his sprained foot.
He fell off a ladder this morning and gave his ankle
a twist. Going to Pugh's? Well, see him as you
return, won't that do?'
' I dare say it will, thank you.'
OUTWOOD was a picturesque and comfortable
old house, built in the days when people de-
sired homes, not hotels or sleeping-boxes. It stood
half-way up the low hill overlooking Outwood Mere,
a lake so narrow and curving that a stranger might
have thought it a river; the letter S best expressing
its form. In front of the house, however, it widened
to a beautiful sheet of calm lily-sprinkled water re-
flecting the fringing trees and the old mansion above
it. Part of the way to Outwood was tolerably familiar
to Cassilis. The deep shady lane, ending in the broad
highway, beside which the modern villa of the eccentric
Mr. Pugh stood defiantly behind its gilt-adorned
gates. Then the glitter of the mere through the trees
on the right, with the chimneys of Outwood rising
above them. Here the carriage turned down a wood-
land road that ran through a fir plantation, where the
wheels rolled silently over the pine needles and ring-
doves cooed all day long. The light of water gleamed
again between the trunks as the narrow curving end of
the mere came into sight, crossed by a moss-grown
stone bridge barely wide enough for the carriage. On
through another plantation, then past the lodge and up
a flower-bordered drive.
' A fine old place,' Cassilis remarked as they drew
A Study of Remorse 123
* And kept in good order too,' said Basset. ' Occles-
ton is fond of his home.'
* There are the boys and Mary on the terrace,' said
Thea. 'They have just seen us. There is George
Hmping. And — yes — it is Anthony. He must be tak-
ing a holiday.'
The two boys, manly little fellows of six and ten_,
welcomed Thea vociferously, while Basset explained
how he had picked up Cassilis in the lane.
'I am so glad to see you. Dr. Cassilis,' said Mrs.
Occleston, a fair serenely-smiling matron. ' Here is
my husband walking about on a sprained foot ; and a
fortnight ago he was really ill, but I could not induce
him to send for you.'
* I was too ill to have a doctor,' said Occleston
gravely, but with a flash of humour in his eyes. ' If
you send for a medical man, all your time is taken
up in arguing with him, and that is too fatiguing
when one feels bad. When one gets better, it is a
great pleasure to see a doctor. I have very great
pleasure in seeing you now. Dr. Cassilis. Excepting
this foot, which is a trifle, I am all right to-day, and
ready to argue.'
' Then we will begin at once,' said Cassilis. ' Why
are you walking about on that foot ? '
' Because I find I can.'
' Precisely. It would be better if you could not. If
you will come indoors I will look at it.'
' I suppose Basset has told you how I did it ? —
fell off a ladder this morning. I was looking at a
barn-roof that was being mended. Can't trust any-
body's work nowadays. Have to stand over them.
People learn everything but their business.'
124 Quality Corner
' And forget everything but other people's,' said
Occleston assented by an emphatic nod. He
resembled his brother in face and manner. He was
hospitable too, and genial ; pressing Cassilis to stay to
lunch and dinner — to spend the day at Outwood in
fact — and seeming genuinely disappointed when the
doctor said he could not.
' Well, some other day this week,' Occleston re-
joined as he limped into the house to have his foot
examined. ' It will be a real charity if I am tied in-
doors. And you'll come to the grouse supper next
month of course? The Twelfth, you know. Do any
shooting yourself? I can give you some. Poachers
about a good deal, but I mean to be even with them
He led the way indoors, followed by his wife,
Cassilis, and Basset; leaving Thea, Anthony, and the
boys on the terrace overlooking the mere.
' Yes, boys,' Thea responded to their entreaties, ' I
will come and look at the new pony and black rabbits.
How does it happen that you are here, Tony ? '
' Isn't it grand ? ' he replied. ' Better than standing
over hot iron in Woflfendale. Strolling about on a
summer morning gives one such a sense of bloated
luxury. George sent for me to look at the new reap-
ing machine. Something wrong with it. Up you go,
young man ! ' this last to his youngest nephew, whom
he snatched up and perched on his shoulder. ' Now
for the pony and the rabbits ! '
' Out-of-door occupations are much better for men
than indoor ones,' continued Thea musingly, as the
four left the terrace for the stables. ' Mr. Parfitt
A Study of Remorse 125
always impresses me as being so very indoor. I
suppose that is why his pictures are so bad, and why
people admire them so much.'
' What makes you think of that fellow ? '
' Because he came in this morning after breakfast,
and bored Daddy and me with his theories about
chemicals and colours. He prides himself on being
very scientific, and I imagine that he also fancied he
was making himself agreeable to Daddy. Tony, what
do you do when you see a scientific person coming? '
* Run away,' replied Anthony promptly.
' That is a good idea. It might apply to more
serious crises of life. There is sometimes a tremendous
amount of passive resistance in the mere fact of run-
' Well,' said Occleston, ' you see you have always
the choice of two lines of conduct, either to hit out or
to run away. The beauty of running away is that if
you get tired of running you can always turn around
and have a slap at the fellow you are running away
from. Whereas if you hit out at once, you must keep
on hitting till you have disabled your adversary. I
mean, you mustn't hit and run. But you can run and
' Yes, I see. Tony, you are the best moral teacher
* Oh, I say ! ' — there was positively a blush on his
cheek. ' I thought you were talking about scientific
people and things in general.'
* So I was, and scientific people have nothing to do
with morals, have they? In fact, they haven't any
morals. I am sure Mr. Parfitt would hit and run
away. I wonder how it is that an instinctive fighter,
126 Quality Corner
like you, Tony, has generally a better idea of morals
than one who could not hit another in the eye to save
' I don't see exactly what you are aiming at,' said
Occleston ; ' but I am sure I am right about the hit-
ting and not running, and the rest of it.'
' Of course you are right,' Thea smiled on her old
playfellow ; ' you are always right. That is your only
Whereupon Anthony's swarthy face reddened more
than ever, and a great hopefulness rose in his heart.
Had he been older, he would have felt less hopeful
for that frank praise.
The pony and rabbits having been inspected and ad-
mired to the boy's content, the two strolled back to the
house. George Occleston, his foot bandaged, was
sitting by one of the library windows opening on the
terrace, pointing out the landscape to Cassilis and
grumbling at his own accident.
* I dare say the foot will be better for rest,' he said
in reply to his wife's attempts at consolation, ' but it
is very awkward. So many things to see to. Nowadays
there is no peace for a man. About a dozen new laws
sprung upon him every week, and each one of them
apparently the product of a drivelling idiot. It is hke
being tormented by a legion of imps ! '
' " The devil said his name was Legion," ' mur-
mured Basset absently, looking out over the lake.
' Ah, in these days he calls himself Parish Councils.'
Cassilis laughed. ' So bad as that ? '
' Quite,' replied Occleston gravely.
' The Councils usually meet in rooms of unimagina-
tive and aggressive colour,' said Basset, turning away
A Study of Remorse 127
from the window. ' Something more brilliant and
sympathetic is needed.'
' Not rose-colour, Basset. They see too much rose-
colour in the ratepayers' pockets already. If you can
devise any protective colouring for us poor landlords,
you will be doing a noble act.'
' You perceive. Dr. Cassilis, that my husband does
not possess his soul in peace respecting modem legis-
lation ; ' this from Mrs. Occleston.
* No, by Jove ! ' growled George. * A man's soul
will soon be the only thing left him, and a good many
people would deny him even the possession of that !
Nowadays I cannot understand my own language.
Words have not the same meaning they had in my
boyhood. A Free Library means a library that one
man is compelled to pay for that another may be
amused free of cost to himself. Government has
turned highwayman, searches my pockets, and strips
me to my shirt and trousers.'
* George ! ' expostulated his wife.
But Occleston had settled fairly into his stride.
' To my shirt and trousers,' he repeated emphati-
cally. ' There is no reason Mary, why I should not
mention my shirt and trousers. This Robin Hood
system says " You have denied yourself and saved.
This chap has done neither. Therefore you must give
him the cash you have gained by your carefulness."
I don't see it. But I've got to do it. I am taxed to
provide, against my convictions, a godless education
for the nation. Is that compulsion of conscience, or
is it not? If I refuse to pay, my goods are seized. Is
that religious persecution, or is it not? This is the
age of robbery and cant. The only liberty left is the
128 Quality Corner
liberty to make my neighbour's life a burden to him.
I may do that to my heart's content. But I may not
strive to be quiet and mind my own business. I may
not even follow the religion of my forefathers with-
out being called a fool for so doing ! '
' Our rulers multiply,' said CassiHs.
Occleston nodded. ' Of course. The lower forms
of life always multiply. And a pretty noise they make
about liberty. What liberty do they mean? The lib-
erty to restrain other people. Presently I too shall
begin bawling for that particular sort of liberty — the
liberty to restrain them. You are not going yet,
surely ? ' as Cassilis rose.
' I am afraid I must. I am due at your opposite
' Pugh ? Oh, never mind him. I'll swear there is
nothing the matter with him.'
* He suffers a good deal from indigestion.'
' I don't wonder at it. A man may well have indi-
gestion when he swallows such theories as Pugh's.
They are worse than Basset's.'
' If my success in Mr. Pugh's case depends on my
persuading him to relinquish his views, I fear his
chance of recovery is small.'
' Has he told you that the earth is flat ? ' pursued
' And that a man's soul may be cleansed by a judi-
cious course of mineral water from all the sins he has
committed or intends to commit.'
' Something of that sort.'
* And that the preserving of partridges is
wicked ? '
« A Study of Remorse 129
* I have not yet heard about the partridges.'
* Ah, you will. Particularly if you join our shoot-
ing-party. Whenever he hears poachers have been
busy on my domains he tells me it is a judgment. Bas-
set, why don't you bring your brother-philosopher to
reason ? '
* I deny that Pugh is a brother-philosopher,' said
Basset placidly. ' He is simply a fool. Many people
consider the two synonymous, but in this case they
are not so. Pugh is a man with a mission. I am a
man with convictions.'
' But people with missions are people with convic-
tions,' said Anthony.
* True, my dear boy. The reverse, however, is not
true. People with convictions are not necessarily
people with missions. The more justice there is in a
man's opinions the less chance there is of others agree-
ing with him. Wherefore, if he values his peace, he
will refrain from too strenuous endeavour to spread
those opinions. I value my peace.'
* I do not think Mr. Pugh has convictions,' said
Thea reflectively. ' He has retired from business hav-
ing never known anything but business. So his mind
being empty and an idle life seeming dull, he snatches
at the first ideas that present themselves. He is dull,
poor man, that is all. Perhaps he will get into Par-
liament some day. Then that will amuse him.'
' Pray Heaven he doesn't get into the County Coun-
cil ! That would amuse him too much. He is a terrible
nuisance anywhere. Is he not at this moment depriv-
ing me of a pleasant companion ? '
Occleston uttered these last words with a genial
grace of manner that struck the wanderer afresh.
130 Quality Corner
' I will do my best to deserve that epithet when I
come again,' he said.
And so Cassilis departed.
* I like that fellow,' said Occleston. ' Got some
sense in him. He'll not aim at my ear when we go
out shooting together. He notices things. He has
that faculty of acute observation which is seldom
possessed by any man who is not either a sportsman
or the immediate descendant of one. Pugh says it's
slaughter, but when the rabbits eat his cabbages, Pugh
sings out for slaughter as loudly an anybody. You
cannot shut your eyes to facts, and the all-seeing eye
of a sportsman is a fact. Of course I am not speaking
of the man who shoots in a poultry-yard, with a couple
of flunkeys to hand him his guns, and who, if he misses
his birds, never by any chance misses his friends. But
the man who has walked over miles of stubble and
heather with only his dogs to keep him company, will
see more in five minutes than the most learned ass will
perceive in a year. Old Xenophon was right. Curi-
ous that we never get beyond the Greeks in these mat-
ters. If I were really ill, I'd send for my head
gamekeeper to nurse me. Then I should not be poi-
soned by accident, or killed by any other tom-fool
' I think I should like an old man-o'-war's man for
a nurse,' said Thea ; ' sailors are always such splendid
and sympathetic nurses.'
' There you are again,' said George ; 'it is the
trained fighting man — the trained killer, if you like —
who can be trusted to think of consequences. He
knows that when a bullet goes into a man it is apt to
A Study of Remorse 131
prove troublesome. Therefore he will not be too
fond of dosing you with drugs. The average doctor
regards your poor body as a target for practice, and
fires away as contentedly as a yokel at a fair, six shots
a penny. He may hit the bull's-eye or not, probably
not. Meanwhile the rest of the target suffers — oh,
Lord ! '
' Well, Cassilis is careful enough,' said Anthony.
' He thinks a lot.'
* I don't believe he does.' responded George. ' He
knows better. He observes and acts. There is too
much thinking nowadays. People think and think
till they don't know what they think, and then they
sit down and write about it,'
Basset nodded and rose, glancing at Thea, who
was talking to Mrs. Occleston. ' We must be going,'
' Where ? ' inquired Occleston. ' Home ? Nonsense.
You and Thea must stay to lunch. We have heard
none of the news from Quality Comer as yet.'
' There is a very good lunch waiting at home,' said
* You old sybarite ! — there is just as good a one
* Thea has agreed to stay,' interposed Mrs.
' Oh, then I must,' rejoined Basset meekly.
' That's right,' said his host in a tone of satisfac-
tion. ' I have just got some Burgundy that beats
' As good then. Presently one will apply for official
132 Quality Corner
permission to put a bottle on the table, or to say one's
prayers. The Deluge approaches, a universe of
wheels, taxes, reformations. I shall be put into a re-
formatory. You, Basset, will be put out of the world.'
' Because you enjoy it so much.'
MEANWHILE Cassilis had gone down the drive,
past the lodge, and into the dusky fir planta-
tion where the old stone bridge spanned the narrow
curving lake. Here he stopped for a moment looking
down into the still water beneath. Outwood Mere was
very deep, much deeper than a stranger would be
likely to suppose; and its sides were nearly precipi-
tous, by reason of the hollow of the lake being no
shelving cup of land, but a cleft in the sandstone
rock. Perhaps the depth of the water gave it that
dark glassiness. Cassilis leant over the rough stone
parapet and looked into the sombre mere as into a
mirror. Under the shadows of the firs on either side,
its clear darkness changed to black, the blackness of
night — that is, not opaque, but possessing a certain
transparency; and everywhere it held an under- world
of dim reflections, not shifting nor blurred, but as in
a glass darkly. The shadow of a bird crossed the
bough shadows ; a pale shadow, a ringdove surely,
for the little woods were full of doves, and their cooing
seemed to emphasise the silence. A blue dragonfly
shot past, returned, and settled on a tuft of sunlit
moss by the edge of the parapet, the sunshine caught
in its quivering wings. The insect made a spot of
jewel-like brilliancy on the shadowed bridge, the
transparent glistening wings and body of vivid
sapphire against the deep bright green of the moss.
134 Quality Corner
In another moment it darted away, and Cassilis's eye
followed its angular flight beyond the woods. There,
where the widening mere lay in sunshine between
meadow and hill, the water was pearl-grey tinted
with faintest blue — the blue of the pale northern sky
above it. The shower of two hours ago had left no
traces, save a brighter sheen on the grass — a green
as of earliest spring. Again he noticed the subtle
colouring of the landscape — green, grey, blue, and
this deep dark water flowing under his feet. The
singular stillness and restraint, as it were, of this
northern summer ; the cooing of the doves ; the soft
coolness of the moist breeze that rustled in the fir-
boughs ; the sun-flecked ground, here strewn with
pine-needles, there green with velvet patches of moss.
Somehow it all suggested no change of season, no
rush of spring, no heat of summer, autumnal glow, nor
winter cold; but rather the unchanging beauty of the
Tir-fa-Ton — the land beneath the sea, where the wind
blows ever from the west, and the light is the light of
an opal, and the turmoil of the world comes to the ear
but as the rolling of the waves.
That was an unexpected murmur from the past
that Cassilis had heard this morning. His mind
recurred to it as he leant over the mossy parapet.
Strange that June Stanham should be here. ' June
Heald ' she wished to be called. He must remember
that. Poor woman! she had had a hard life. Well,
she seemed comfortable enough now. A grateful soul
she had always been ; she had done him a good turn.
Yes, but why had he been such a fool as to go oiT
after that appointment? He might have known he
would not get it. And for every reason how much
A Study of Remorse 135
better it would have been to have stayed — how much
wiser! There was no reason why he should not
have stayed. But that heedless going away had
placed him in a position impossible of explanation
should need of explanation arise. That was not
likely. Yet June had mentioned a lawyer named
Rudell. Was he Rudell of Quality Corner? Thorold
had never spoken of Ringway, nor uttered the name
of Rudell. True, once, when they were discussing
the appointment that Cassilis scarcely hoped to gain,
Thorold, the consoler, had said he knew a place in the
North where he thought there was a good opening for
a medical man. He had friends there, he added.
Then the subject dropped, Cassilis being too absorbed
with the immediate chance to think much of this far-
away one. Could Ringway have been the place to
which Thorold had alluded? It was possible; civil
engineers drift about to many places and make many
friends. After all he, Cassilis, had known but little
of his rescuer Thorold. If the two Rudells were iden-
tical, and Parfitt happened to talk of that night ten
years ago? Here Cassilis fell to wondering if he,
James Cassilis, were indeed the same man who had
stood by the window that night.
' When we have learnt to see our mistakes,' he
said aloud, ' it is too late to mend them.'
Far down in the depths of the mere, among the
interlacing reflections, he saw, in fancy, the poor room,
and himself standing by the open window, his old
wretched half-starved self; June Heald, a slim scared
girl ; and his friend Thorold — yes, his friend's face,
handsome, sunny, kindly, rose up clearly before him.
* Our mistakes,' he repeated, ' and our unpardon-
136 Quality Corner
able sins, which are our worst mistakes ; not to be
mended even hereafter.'
Thoughts and feelings surged up like strong
currents as the visions of bygone days rose in his
mind and shadowed themselves in the deep water as
he gazed; and thus thinking, yet another thought
arose, strong, vigorous. Seeing that neither in this
world nor in the next could the past be undone, his
dead friend and he meet as before that fatal moment
that brought death to the one and lifelong remorse to
the other — seeing that these things could not be
changed, why should not he, Cassilis enjoy the
present? To the past he had sacrificed his ambition,
had drifted hither and thither in obscurity of his own
free will. For the future? — to all men comes death,
and after death judgment, when he would meet with
the due reward of his deed. But till then — why, he
was only thirty-six. Long years of happiness he
might enjoy here in this green silent land of sun and
shower whither fate had led him. Once more he
' To live in the present is the secret of happiness.
I will live in the present,' he said, turning away from
the dark glass of the mere to the sun-dappled, pine-
scented woods around him. ' I will be happy as other
men are — happier.'
DID not Hermes remark that if Prometheus were
prosperous he would be intolerable? Quite so.
And why ? Because he possessed greater capacity than
all the rabble of Olympus put together. Therefore
fasten him to his rock, for of course if you have power
to torment him, his capacity cannot be so great after
all. At any rate, it is of no use to him. Bound as he
is, he cannot earn a decent meal for himself. Obvi-
ously he is a failure. Let us hear no more nonsense
about his possessing the sacred fire. No fire is worth
anything unless you can cook by it. Finally, whether
one has any particular reason or not, it is always pleas-
ant to worry one's Prometheus.
Just now Cassilis happened to be Parfitt's Pro-
metheus. Chiefly on account of Thea, but also
by reason of a combination of circumstances that
brought Mark's worst side uppermost. He was essen-
tially an artist made, not born. A man of talent, not
of genius. He had accepted the commission to paint
the eastward fresco in Wofifendale Town Hall because
he wanted the money offered, but he disliked the work
because it kept him out of town. He did not espe-
cially object to sitting in a gloomy hall outside whose
windows hovered a perpetual fog of smoke. Pro-
vided there was enough light to work by, the cloudy
sky and sooty atmosphere troubled him not at all. A
138 Quality Corner
man of a higher type, feeling the need of pure colour
amid the dinginess of that grimy workshop called
Woffendale, would have made the walls glow like the
curtains of the Tabernacle. Parfitt had very little
sense of colour. He prided himself on his realism ;
that is, he could see the mud puddle, not the rainbow
glory. Therefore the conditions of his work did not
disturb him. But when the day was over and the train
bore him out to green fern-scented Ringway, to the
little world of Quality Corner, he felt that he was sit-
ting under a microscope, and he resented the calm
scrutiny to which he was subjected. It was for the
provinces to admire, not to criticise. Parfitt did not
exactly acknowledge this to himself, he possessed some
glimmer of humour. Nevertheless offended vanity
was the underlying cause of the feeling of general
annoyance with which he regarded Ringway and the
inhabitants thereof. Certainly they had treated him
well as far as hospitality went; yet there was a de-
cided absence of the deference he had expected
when he condescended to stay in a smaller town,
instead of putting up at a Woffendale hotel, and run-
ning up to London every week as he might have
done. Of course he had accepted his sister's invita-
tion with a view to marrying a rich wife. But the
wife had proved more difficult to obtain than he had
anticipated. Parfitt did not imagine things that were
non-existent. He saw that Thea was as indifferent
to him as ever, for which reason he had almost de-
cided on marrying her. Mark was not accustomed
to failure. This last fortnight had convinced him that
Cassilis was becoming a far too prominent figure in
Quality Corner. The artist had noticed his increasing
A Study of Remorse 139
buoyancy, the joyousness that seemed to radiate from
him and shone in his glance. Here was a flame of hfe
rising too high, burning too brightly to please Parfitt.
He said to himself that the fellow was growing intol-
erable, and where had he met him before? Surely
he had not only seen that face, but had drawn it.
Among Parfitt 's impedimenta was a portfolio of
old sketches. He had brought them down with him
thinking they might be of use. Now on this par-
ticular morning, as he sat before his fresco in a dis-
tinctly bad temper, he remembered that portfolio
and proceeded to turn over its contents. Apparently
the search was satisfactory, for he drew out and rolled
up a charcoal drawing. Then putting away his
brushes and telling the attendant he should do no
more w^ork that day. Mark made his way through the
hot noisy streets to the station.
Half-an-hour later he surprised his sister by walk-
ing into the drawing-room of Xumber Four.
'Why, Mark!' she said, 'I thought you got the
best working light at this time.'
* Art is long and Time is fleeting, therefore it be-
hooves us to make the best of Time and let Art take
care of itself,' he replied, dropping into a comfortable
chair — it was characteristic of Parfitt that he always
chose the most comfortable chairs. ' Look at that ! '
As he spoke, he unrolled the drawing and handed
it to his sister.
'Dr. Cassilis, is it not? But you have made him
' I did it ten years ago. There's the date in the
comer. I was sure I had seen him before.'
140 Quality Corner
' Ah, that I cannot recollect. But I have no doubt
I shall remember presently.'
' Did you think of putting him in a picture ? It is
a picturesque sort of face.'
' It is the face of a man who will never succeed,'
said Parfitt, taking the drawing from Mrs. Rudell and
regarding it critically. ' He will be too conscientious,
or too hesitating, or too amusing, or too something
' I do not see how a man can be too amusing to
succeed,' said Mrs. Rudell.
' Easily enough. To succeed you must give the
impression of having succeeded. That is, you must
wear a good coat and expect other people to amuse
you. Then they believe you have a big balance at
your banker's, and they hasten to make it bigger. If
you are too brilliant, the dear creatures think you
have dined on a turnip, which is the privilege of
genius, not of success.'
' I do not think brilliancy would last long if fed on
' That is the use of the turnip-diet. Like war, it
clears off the strong and gives others a chance. If all
our geniuses had a good dinner every day, poor tal-
ented devils like myself would be nowhere.'
' Everyone thinks you a great genius, Mark.'
' And I will take care they think it to the end,' re-
sponded her brother. ' I possess at least one un-
doubted talent, that of getting on.'
He looked again at the drawing, and his sister
looked at him.
' He is a brute,' she thought ; and then she re-
flected that he was just the husband for Thea
A Study of Remorse 141
Basset, whom Susette did not like. As the adopted
daughter of an easy-going old bachelor with plenty
of money, Thea was really far too independent to
please Mrs. Rudell ; who, being herself thoroughly
commonplace, was further annoyed by the girl's
individuality. Most people demand that others shall
be a copy of themselves — a feeble copy of course, and
they regard the infinite variety in the work of the
Master Potter as rather due to His adversary the devil
tampering with the clay. That interlacing of thought
and feeling, swiftly changing moods of dreamy in-
sight, gay jest, and generous sympathy, and the
curious impression of remoteness that she gave, as of
a spirit, while yet of so marked a personality that
none could ignore her; a subtle force always to be
reckoned with, like dew which may be frost ; in short,
all that was Thea merely inspired Susette with a
desire to blur, if not to destroy, these rare and
delicate mouldings fashioned by the Potter's hand.
Nothing of that sort could long exist beside Mark
Parfitt, therefore he was clearly the right husband for
the girl. And he needed money. Thus thinking, his
' You really ought to pay Thea Basset more atten-
He was still looking at the charcoal sketch of
Cassilis that he held in his hand.
' A good Hamlet face,' he said musingly. ' Now
where was I when I did this? There was some story
connected with it too, I am pretty certain.'
' Did you hear what I said about Thea ? '
' I heard. But the most essential thing is to clear
this fellow out of the way. How much has Basset ? '
14a Quality Corner
* Gregory says his income is nearly three thousand
a year, and he has never spent even a thousand. He
has been saving for years.'
' Where does the money come from ? '
' Oh, a coal-mine, I beHeve. He owns one, or part
of one, or something or other. I don't exactly under-
stand it. Gregory will explain. He knows all Mr. Bas-
set's affairs. There is some land also, one or two farms.'
* Land is no good nowadays,' said Parfitt, still look-
ing at the drawing, ' and I dare say the coals go to
some relatives at his death.'
' I never heard he had any,'
' Must have. No man is free from that sort of im-
pedimenta. However, there must be a nice little sum
laid by, worth trying for perhaps. Meanwhile, I will
oust this fellow, I am determined.'
' You will not do so if you are not more devoted in
your manner to Thea herself. There is Tony Occles-
ton as well.'
' Pooh ! a boy.'
' He is four-and-twenty.'
'A boy,' repeated Parfitt. 'The first thing is to
settle Cassilis. I wish I could remember when and
where I did this,' laying down the drawing.
' Why do you not show it to Mr. Basset and say you
have heard some queer story about him. I am sure
that is simple enough.'
' Simple certainly, but not enough. I must have
something substantial to go upon. It is only a doctor
who can make people swallow anything, either in
drugs or statements.' He leant back in his chair and
stifled a yawn. ' This is a dull hole. Hunting Cassilis
down will amuse me, whether I decide to marry Thea
Basset or not.'
A Study of Remorse 143
' She may decide on marrying someone else while
you are deliberating.'
' In that case I shall still remain free.'
' I have no more heiresses for you. Emily has only
her house and a mere pittance.'
* And would not suit me either. What is that on
the table ? I think I see my name.'
' Oh, it is an invitation to the grouse supper at
Outwood on the Twelfth.'
' What sort of entertainment is it ? '
* Just a grouse supper, nothing more. It is an an-
nual affair. If the night is fine, we walk over through
the woods — all Quality Corner, I mean, and eat grouse
cooked in every way you can imagine, and then walk
back. If the weather is bad, we drive. That is all.'
' I suppose all the Corner goes ? '
' Yes. Everybody.'
' The supper ? Ten o'clock. Who is that at the
The visitor was Emily Darnton, and after a few
minutes' desultory conversation Mrs. Rudell took the
opportunity of utilising her brother's sketch.
* Do you recognise this ? ' she asked, holding up the
Emily did recognise it, and would have said so had
she not caught a sudden look of expectant cunning in
Susette's eyes. It was gone in a moment, but Emily
had seen it. Therefore she scrutinised the drawing
with an uncertain air, and at last said doubtfully:
' Is it intended for Dr. Cassilis? '
Mark answered : ' It is a sketch of him that I made
ten years ago, as you see by the date on the drawing.
Singular thing that I should come across him again
144 Quality Corner
here, and I accidentally found the sketch to-day when
looking over an old portfolio. However, I had better
put it away. I don't suppose Cassilis would be ex-
' You mean you drew this portrait without his
knowledge. Certainly I should consider that rather a
Emily said this with the intention of annoying Par-
fitt. She was displeased by his manner, which sug-
gested something derogatory to Cassilis.
' People are only too delighted if an artist like Mark
will take the trouble to draw them,' Mrs. Rudell ob-
served with considerable asperity.
' Some people,' rejoined Emily coolly.
' You are quite right. Miss Darnton, but the pleasure
or otherwise depends more on the circumstances under
which the drawing is taken than on the people. Not
so much who, as when, and where.' Mark paused,
then, picking up the sketch, added as though half
speaking to himself, ' I thought of showing this to
Mr. Basset, but perhaps I had better not.'
' Show it to my cousin Tony Occleston,' said Emily,
rising to go. ' He would take great interest in it, I
am sure. Good-bye, Susette.'
Parfitt understood the remark. He knew right well
what would be Occleston 's view of the matter. But he
did not care in the least, of which fact Emily was quite
' Of course he would not care about Tony's indigna-
tion,' she mused as she went into her own house.
' However, it was something disagreeable to say, and
I am glad I said it.'
EMILY DARNTON sat down to write letters.
That is, she pulled out pen and paper, then leant
back in her chair by the window looking into the street.
The stillness of the July afternoon lay upon Quality
Corner, a stillness broken now and then by cart-wheels
rolling over the cobbles of the market-place, or the
sharper ring of a horse's hoofs along the road, where
little puffs of grey dust rose up here and there as the
light breeze bestirred itself.
Emily bent forward to see more of the Corner.
' Our curtains are rather characteristic,' she thought.
* Susette's frilled muslin with blue bows, my Pompeian
reds, Mr. Basset's silken lavender draperies, and Dr.
Cassilis's perfectly correct and proper old-fashioned
lace, very white and stifif. I suppose he bought them
with the furniture and the old woman. I wonder why
those curtains give such an air of respectability to a
house. They are certainly the wisest sort for a bach-
elor doctor. If he hung up some pretty art muslin
with pink ribbons, people would require him to marry
before they would consult him.'
Emily's eyes still rested on the lace curtains, her
thoughts occupied with their owner. He would do
well to marry Thea. Perhaps she might refuse him ?
Yet that was hardly probable ; she evidently liked the
man, and he was undeniably attractive. Was there a
story behind him? Well, the charm of the man him-
146 Quality Corner
self was such that one felt an interest in the story and
wished to hear it. Also, one was prepared to become
aggressive about it, to defend him if need be. Here
Miss Darnton paused to consider whether her cham-
pionship of Cassilis rose from liking for him or dislike
of Susette Rudell and her brother.
' Something of both,' Emily decided. ' One is
always more ready to do a bad turn than a good one,
and when it is possible to combine the two one's con-
science is at rest and one's heart elated.'
The sound of wheels came down the road; Thea
and Mr. Basset were returning from Outwood. Emily
resolutely began her letter-writing. ' If I run in there,
I shall be telling her about the portrait. And I had
better not. At least, I think not.'
But the letter was not half written when a swift soft
rush of garments swept in and Thea's voice exclaimed
' Is it possible that you condescend to those horrors
called letter-cards? How do you stick down those
miles of edges? Do you use your own poor tongue,
or do you have the dog in ? '
' I have the dog in,' pointing to a mat whereon re-
posed an aged setter.
* Dear old Ponto ! What an occupation for his old
age ! Emily, we have been at Outwood.'
* So I supposed. Where did you meet Dr. Cassilis ? '
' In the woods. We took him to see George, who
has hurt his ankle. How did you know ? '
' I did not know. I merely saw Dr. Cassilis going
into his own house with an air of decided exhilaration,
like a schoolboy who has not only stolen apples, but has
eaten them too. And as I have observed that your
A Study of Remorse 147
society usually produces that effect on the masculine
countenance, I drew my own conclusions.'
During this speech a variety of expressions flitted
across Thea Basset's face; slight surprise, slight con-
tempt, slight anger, and considerable amusement.
' Do you not think, Emily, that this is a little — just
a little ?'
' Yes, it is. I am already ashamed of myself. I
must find something to amuse me at once, or I per-
ceive I shall become intolerable.'
' Would it amuse you just now to have tea with me?
I came to ask you and Ponto. Daddy has gone into
the market-place to hear the news of the town, so I am
* Of course I will come,' Emily rose briskly. ' So
will the dog. He likes visiting as much as I do.'
There was always something peculiarly soothing
about that dark-panelled gold-tinted room of Number
Two. Emily settled herself in a chair with an air of
placid enjoyment, while the old setter drew instinct-
ively towards the flickering wood fire and curled him-
self up on the rug.
' I am wondering,' she said, lazily watching Thea
at the spindle-legged tea-table, ' why your rooms give
such a sense of well-being, of serene gaiety. Is it that
almost perpetual fire you keep up? There is an idea
of household virtue about the hearth-fire, and a summer
fire fanned by open windows denotes wideness of mind.
When it is a wood fire, one may safely expect culture
and independent thought.'
* Combined with the household virtues of which you
spoke ? ' Thea inquired with that lightning-like smile
148 Quality Corner
* Of course. Culture implies the household virtues.
It appreciates rest, therefore it attends to the fire and
all other home comforts. Nowadays people are so busy
running about that one hardly ever sees a nice bright
fire except in Quality Corner and at Outwood. Sitting
still is a noble art going out of fashion. I wish I
could find a man who has never ridden a bicy-
* Why ? What would you do with him ? '
' Marry him,' said Emily calmly, and Thea laughed.
' It is no laughing matter,' Emily protested. ' Noth-
ing would induce me to ride a bicycle. It would not
amuse me any more that it would you. But if one's
husband rides and one does not, some odious woman
on wheels rides with him.'
' He probably would not want her.'
' Whether he wanted her or not, she would be there,'
gloomily. ' I think I had better marry a sailor. Then
he will not have so much time for running about on
' You seem very much harassed on the subject of
marriage ! '
' I am. At one time I thought I would remain sin-
gle. Now I have decided to marry. But whom ? On
the whole, I think a sailor would be best. What is
your opinion ? '
* Why not drift into it or not into it, as life's tide
' I could not drift,' said Emily emphatically. ' I
shall marry with the deliberate intention of marrying.
I have not your gift of enjoying the passing moods of
life. I need more occupation. Therefore, I must
marry. How else shall I spend my time? Thea, you
A Study of Remorse 149
have given that dog eight biscuits in ten minutes.
* How would you like to be limited as to cups of
tea? Let Ponto decide for himself. I respect free-
will,' and she threw another biscuit to the setter.
' I also respect free-will, except where it clashes
' Be a reformer, Emily. That sentiment is admir-
Miss Damton shook her head.
' The world is past mending. It is a garment so
old and worn that every patch put on its rents slits it
worse in some other direction. The only way to reform
it is to tip up the Atlantic'
' Decidedly, dear, you were intended to be a re-
' Not so. I perceive too clearly the need of the At-
lantic. I must marry a man who is nice and narrow.
Then he will do something. These wide outlooks are
* You are as melancholy as George. He was utter-
ing lamentations as usual. Reasonable ones, I admit.
But still lamentations.'
* I sympathise with him. Mary sent me the grouse
supper invitation to-day. I suppose the whole Corner
will go, including that man Parfitt, who will doubtless
confide his hopes to you as we walk through the woods.'
' He has no hopes,' replied Thea with the airy light-
ness characteristic of her. ' He merely makes arrange-
ments for his future. At present, however, I do not
think I come into his arrangements. He was never
quite sure whether he would marry me or not, and just
now he is thoroughly tired of me.'
150 Quality Corner
' No, not tired.'
' Yes, tired. The situation has been a triangular
one from the first. Susette is quite sure I shall marry
her brother, I am quite sure I shall not ; and Mr. Par-
fitt, after giving considerable thought to the subject, is
more than half inclined to relinquish the idea. I bore
him so terribly.'
' Here,' thought Emily, ' is my opportunity of men-
tioning that portrait of Dr. Cassilis. Yet after all,
what is there to tell ? '
She watched Thea stirring the smouldering log in
the grate, a miniature log that had once been an
apple-bough, and was now passing away in soft
feathery flame — the delicate flame of burning wood,
fanned by the cool air from the blossoming garden.
Outside in the street, voices and echoing footsteps
broke on the silence of the room,
* Mr. Parfitt is not bored, he is jealous,' said Emily
so suddenly that Thea, stooping .over the fire, looked
round in laughing surprise.
' Why speak so explosively ? '
' Oh, because I wish he had never come here^ be-
cause I feel that he will somehow break up the peace
of the Corner, and I adore the Corner. It is unique.
He has got a drawing of Dr. Cassilis done ten years
ago, and there is some story about it. At least, he
and Susette implied that by their manner.'
' Are you imagining the peace of the Corner im-
perilled by Susette's fancies? Neither portrait nor
story, assuming that they exist, can concern us.'
' Perhaps not,' Emily responded doubtfully.
* And Dr. Cassilis is able to take care of himself.'
* I am not sure of that. He takes care of other
A Study of Remorse 151
people, which is a distinctly bad habit for a man's own
interests. Then he himself is unusual, which is
' It gives him friends.'
* And enemies. Directly a man or woman seems
to be worth anything, people begin looking about for
half-bricks. That is how you can test the worth of
a human being, by observing the number of the flying
half-bricks and the sort of people who throw them.
Mr. Basset is lucky in being a rich man. If he were
not, the atmosphere would be thick with missiles.
You, Thea, are protected by Mr. Basset.'
' Thanks for the implied compliment.'
' It is true. When is that man going to finish his
fresco ? '
' I do not know.'
' Has he not told you ? '
* No, he expects to be asked.'
Emily laughed. ' He is detestable, and so is Susette.
I hope they will not upset the Comer. I feel respon-
sible, because Mark Parfitt's presence here is my doing.
Had I never invited Susette, she would never have
married Mr. Rudell, and her brother would never
have seen Ringway. I have a sort of second-sight ;
something disagreeable will happen.'
' Is the sketch a large one ? '
* Of Dr. Cassilis ? No, only head and shoulders,
and younger than he is now.'
' I daresay Mr. Parfitt has done it just lately. Why
has he not shown it before ? '
' Whether the drawing is new or not will make no
difference. If they have anything unpleasant to say
about Dr. CassiUs, they will say it. If they have not,
152 Quality Corner
they will say it just the same. Then everybody will
takes sides, and what becomes of the Comer ? '
' Emily, I find your conversation most depressing ! '
' So do I.'
* Then why put things in so doleful a manner ? Here
comes Daddy ! I will tell him you are as sad as though
you were a millionaire.'
' How is that ? ' said Basset, entering. ' Emily sad ?
My dear, can I do anything ? '
' Oh no, Mr. Basset, thank you. It is nothing. A
passing and a foolish mood.'
' Then, my dear, let me prescribe for the mood.
Stay and dine with us. The scent of tea-roses, which
is our house-perfume to-day, usually produces serenity
of mind ; and the dinner, I assure you, is one calculated
to raise the spirits.'
' I am sure it is. You see I am more cheerful
already. I will go home and put on a smart gown.'
' Do, my dear, and fascinate Parfitt.'
* Is he coming ? '
' Do not look so disgusted, Emily,' said Thea. * This
is one of our duty dinners, and you must help us with
it. We will invite you to a really nice entertainment
presently as a reward.'
' I do not like the fellow myself,' said Basset, ' but
I wished to ask the Rudells, and one can hardly ignore
their guest and relative. I hoped to have had Cassilis,
but he is dining elsewhere. Perhaps he may drop in
* Well then, good-bye for ten minutes. What is to
be done with Ponto ? '
' Leave him here, he is also a guest,' replied Thea.
THERE had been rain in the night, and a westerly-
wind, warm and strong, was blowing under a sky
of luminous dappled-grey cloud. No blue — not so much
as would have made a corn-flower; only the milk-
white, ashen-grey clouds, blown up from the sea and
moving eastward in swift shining procession. The
sky of pearl deepened the green of grass and tree
to vivid emerald, and the vanished blue reappeared
in the woods and on the far horizon as violet mist.
Cassilis was walking to the Moss Farm to see his
small patient there. On the brow of the hill he
paused, glancing round at the now familiar landscape,
the woods behind him, the wide valley in front, and
far away to the left a gleam of light that he knew to
be the extreme end of Outwood Mere, which he had
seen reflecting the crescent moon on St. John's Eve.
' The mystic fern-seed ! ' he said aloud, smiling as
he recalled Thea's fanciful explanation of that far-
away glitter. The mere had a curious attraction for
him. It harmonised so completely with this wet green
country of moss and grey lichen, of blue mist and
blowing cloud. Yet was there not something sinister
about that singularly picturesque sheet of water, some
fairy glamour that might or might not be friendly?
Here Cassilis laughed at his own idle thought, and
quickened his steps towards the farm. Here was no
fantasy, but homely peace and unhurrying toil.
154 Quality Corner
Little Joe, now positively elated by the possession
of a broken arm, was sitting on an upturned bucket
in the farmyard, and steadily eating his way through
a large slice of bread and honey that, owing to his dis-
regard for the comers, fitted his face like a sickle.
Beside him a crowd of ducks jostled each other over
the yellow meal that old Martha threw to them out of
a wooden bowl.
' This is the best life,' thought CassiHs as his eyes
fell on the scene, ' the life that is nearest to Mother
Earth — that makes friends of the seasons ; the Ufe that
this century is doing its best to destroy.'
Here the old woman, seeing him, hastened indoors
to fetch June; who came out apologising for young
Joe's extremely sticky condition.
' Yo' see, sir, eating is such an amusement.'
And Cassilis quite agreed that eating was a great
' You are looking well, Mrs. Heald,' he remarked
when the boy had been inspected and dismissed to
his upturned bucket and bread and honey ; ' this life
evidently suits you.'
' Why yes, sir, I've about settled to stay. Mr.
Gresty has asked me to marry him, an' I've con-
' I am sure I am very glad indeed to hear it,' said
Cassilis heartily ; ' I congratulate you both.'
* Thank you, sir. An' that reminds me, sir, to tell
you I have a little parcel here that I thought maybe
yo'd like to take.'
They were standing in the old-fashioned parlour,
and June, turning to a cupboard in the wall, took out
A Study of Remorse 155
something wrapped in brown paper. Its outline
seemed vaguely familiar to Cassilis.
'What is it?' he asked.
' Th' little machine, sir, that Mr. Thorold was always
He stepped back with a quick gesture of abhor-
rence : ' I have no use for it.'
June did not see the gesture. She was unwrap-
ping the brown paper.
* No, I suppose not, sir,' she replied, ' but Mr.
Thorold used to say there wur money in it, an' I
thought yo' might be able to send it to his family. He
had a little girl, you know, sir. He often used to talk
' Why was it not taken away at the time ? '
* I forgot it, sir. I'd put it in the cupboard lest
it should get broken, and what with th' inquest, an' my
husband being took up an' a', I never gave a thought
to it till I wur looking round afore leaving th' house.
I couldna recollect th' name o' th' place i' Lincolnshire
where Mr. Thorold wur buried, so I took th' machine
an' kept it by me, thinking some day I might meet
Mr. Thorold's friends an' give it to them. But of
course yo'll be better able to find them than me, sir.'
* I cannot find them,' said Cassilis.
June looked disappointed.
' I'd like to be rid of it now,' she said gently.
* Poor Mr. Thorold set such store by it that I wur
bound to keep it safe ; an' when I found you wur
here, sir, I put it i' paper ready, thinking yo'd maybe
know where to send it.'
* I have no idea where Mr. Thorold's friends lived.
156' Quality Corner
I only met him in Bramsall. He spoke of leaving
his motherless child with relatives in Lincolnshire, but
he never mentioned either their names or the name of
' I wish as I could remember th' village where he
wur buried,' said June ; ' being that moithered at th'
time, I didna heed. I wur telling Mr. Gresty how
yo'd been main good to me when my husband wur
spending a' an' carrying on. I didna speak o' Mr.
Thorold, though he were as good to me as yoursen,
sir. But as I wur saying to yo', I didna care to be
talking o' that time more'n I could help, an' so/ look-
ing rather wistfully at the parcel on the table, * I'd
like to be rid on't.' A rush of remorseful feeling swept
over Cassilis. She would like to be rid of it — and
so would he — so would he ! Yet had the dead man no
claim upon him ?
' I will take it,' he said suddenly. * I can but keep
it as you have done. Try to remember the name of the
village, and I will send it there.'
' Thank yo', sir,' June's pleasant voice had a ring
of relief. ' I will surely do my best to remember.'
She paused a moment, then added, * Mr. Rudell would
know, sir, th' Mr. Rudell yo' said wur living here
i' th' town, if he's th' same gentleman as I saw at the
inquest. His name isna common, an' he might be th'
' Yes,' assented Cassilis, taking up the parcel, ' he
might be the same. And when are you and Gresty to
be married ? '
' Well, sir, seeing there's nothing to wait fur, we
thought o' next week.'
A Study of Remorse 157
' Gresty is a lucky man. I shall tell him so when
I see him.'
June smiled happily. ' 'Tis a peaceful home,' she
said as she lifted the old-fashioned latch for Cassilis
to pass out, ' an' I wur always one for peace, you
' Yes,' he replied, ' I too love peace.'
Then he went away up the hill under the blowing
pearl-grey clouds, the strong soft wind sweeping past
him, over him, through him — every leaf and branch
and blade of grass blowing eastward too, beneath the
steady pressure of that invisible hand. The trees,
the tall bracken, not wrestling with the gale but bend-
ing before it — each leaf turning its pale underside
to the breath that blew, and quivering like the water-
weeds in a swift stream. Like the rushing of water
too was the song of the wind that filled the air — a
primaeval sound that fell harmlessly, pleasantly, de-
spite its volume, on the ear as the roar of the sum-
This moist rushing wind swept Cassilis's thoughts
along with it. Was he not also swept onward by a re-
sistless wind of fate. Here in this place of green peace,
wrought as it were by the magic of water, a place
of grey cloud, soft shadow of blue mist, and cool
wet mossiness — a place of dusk and dreams. What
goblin mockery was it that here he should find — not
clear dark-flowing Lethe, but the terrible waters of
Eunoe the memory-bringer.
He walked swiftly, his spirit burdened by this risen
thing as the herbage was bent by the wind. Was it
for this he had come to Ringway? Oh, of course,
1.58 Quality Corner
were he either a better or a worse man he would not
feel thus troubled by that which he carried. A better
man would seek out those to whom it rightfully be-
longed, and take his chance of the result. A worse
would simply drop it into Outwood Mere.
Here Cassilis looked back at the far-shining end
of the mere, just visible from where he stoood on the
hillside. The grey pearliness of the day seemed to
accentuate its glitter; it was the one point of light in
the cloud-shadowed landscape. Was that still water
Lethe or Eunoe? His thoughts rushed on. No, he
could not do that. He knew himself incapable of that
act of common sense — of treachery. It would be a
second Judas deed. One was enough for a man's
lifetime. No, his first holiday must be to Bramsall.
Possibly there he could get some old newspapers that
would tell him the forgotten address. Consult Ru-
dell? — never. He was not likely to be the same man.
And if he were? Oh, it was natural for June Heald,
in her simple integrity, to propose such a course, but
how could he, Cassilis, explain his leaving Bramsall
on that fatal night? That was a step impossible of
explanation. True, he had returned — too late.
Here a wave of angry bitterness passed over his
mind. To succeed in life a man should be consistent;
he should be that stupendous product of civilisation,
a thoroughly reasonable being; doing just so much
evil as will smooth his own path, yet not enough to
startle his neighbours ; only enough to give them a com-
fortable fellow-feeling in his presence. But to do evil
and repent thereof, what fatal inconsistency — involv-
ing such erratic action as must needs tangle one's
thread of life.
A Study of Remorse 159
He reached the top of the hill, passed the woods,
and saw before him the road winding down into
Ringway. Eddies of grey dust rose up here and
there and whirled fantastically; then fell again into
scattered atoms to be trodden underfoot. Cassilis
looked at them as he passed on with his peculiarly
light elastic step. What were men but eddies of grey
dust raised up by the Breath of Life, whirling fan-
tastically for a little space, falling into scattered atoms
again when the Breath forsook them ? And with what
wild gyrations those same eddies danced and twirled!
Well, he was not yet weary of his own gyrations
along the road of this present life, not since they had
led him to Quality Corner. He could see the four tall
old houses now, and beyond them the market-place,
and all was pleasant in his eyes. Already Ringway
was ' home.'
He mentally summed up his position. The sudden
resurrection of his dead friend's handiwork, that little
model, had startled him for the time. That was all.
As soon as he could get away he would go to Bramsall.
Meanwhile there was his life here, there was Quality
Corner. His thoughts turned to Basset. Cassilis felt
that the kindly eccentric gentleman would believe his
story. Others would not. Why should they? His
journey that night was a mistake not to be remedied.
George Occleston ? Yes, he might believe. Both he
and ^^asset were independent spirits ; judging, weigh-
ing for themselves. But the position of a man vaguely
suspected of a crime, whether he has friends or not, is
very different to the position of a man who has never
been suspected of anything. He, James Cassilis, poor
and unknown, yet gifted and of good reputation.
i6o Quality Corner
might dream of Basset's adopted daughter. Whereas
James Cassilis, poor and unknown, with an incident
in his past that he could not explain in any reasonable
manner, would stand in worse case than ever he had
stood in all his wandering years.
Till now the past had never risen against him ; not
till now, when youth and hope once more asserted
themselves. After all, he was but thirty-six. Now,
when life seemed too precious to waste in useless re-
morse ; when home, friends, fortune, love, shone not
quite out of reach ; here and now the past loomed
suddenly, a threatening shadow, between him and that
fair promise of dawn.
Yet many shadows drift harmlessly away. The
danger was not from June, but from Parfitt, whose
memory might at any moment recall the night when
he had strolled along the murky canal-bordered street
in Bramsall. On the other hand, if Parfitt should
finish his work in Wofifendale before he recollected
the incident, Cassilis might feel secure. Mark so
thoroughly hated Ringway that he was most unlikely
to visit the town again; he could meet his sister else-
where. This was the critical time. Perhaps June
Heald's presence in the neighbourhood complicated
matters a little. If Rudell were the lawyer she had
seen in Bramsall he might remember her, and in speak-
ing of the past might hear from Gresty that Cassilis
had lodged at her house. However, by itself that was
nothing. Parfitt's possible recognition of him was the
real danger, and instinctively Cassilis knew that the
artist would believe him innocent, yet seek to prove
him guilty ; an attitude not uncommon among mankind.
The dust eddies whirled and fell and rose asrain,
A Study of Remorse i6i
the strong nor'-wester swept on, fresh from the sea
and the sandhills, and in its salt exhilarating breath
Cassilis regained the feeling of elevation that had
warmed his veins since his first night in Ringway.
He told himself he cared little for Mark Parfitt's
hostility. Indeed, he was not sure that he cared at
all; and it was with a glow at his heart that he ran
up the steps of his own house. In his consulting-
room was a cupboard built in the wall after the
fashion of old houses. Here, still in its brown-paper
wrappings, he placed the model, and turned the
key. The thing could wait; it had waited so long
QUALITY CORNER had gone on a holiday. It
usually scattered itself from the middle of July
till the second week in August. Basset and Thea went
to Ireland, Parfitt and the Rudells abroad, while
Emily Darnton joined the Out wood Occlestons and
Anthony in wanderings about Cornwall. Thus Cas-
silis and Emily's old dog, of whom he had taken
charge in neighbourly fashion, had the Corner to them-
' Come with us,' Basset had urged, * I will ensure
you a welcome. I have a dozen cousins there.'
But Cassilis had replied that he was not yet on
sufficiently familiar terms with Ringway to take the
liberty of a holiday. So he remained, and was re-
warded by gaining several new patients, and by hear-
ing rather more than usual of the cheerful homely
gossip of the market-place. Just now public opinion
was chiefly occupied with Farmer Gresty's approach-
ing marriage to June Heald, which met with general
' O' course theer's noan brass in it,' observed old
Sol Ingers, addressing a group of his cronies from his
doorstep, ' but Gresty being one o' them chaps az
conna do wi'out summat to look at, I dunnot see as
he could do better. Mrs. Heald's comely enow, an'
A Study of Remorse 163
a reasonable age fur Gresty, an' hoo's done well by
til' little uns an' th' house. Taking it a' round, 'tis
sensible enow, an' Gresty's i' luck to get her.'
' Th' match is o' my making,' said farmer Stretton
with pride, ' an' so my missis an' I have settled to go
to church wi' em. It wur me as found th' bride an'
it'll be me as'll give her away.
' A widow-woman dunnot want a mon to give her
away,' said a bystander who was faintly jealous of
' What dost tha know about it ? Tha never wur
wed at a' ! ' retorted Stretton scornfully. And the by-
stander was put to silence.
But June Heald's perverse fate did not permit her
thread of life to run less smoothly. One warm after-
noon a week later, farmer Stretton entered his own
comfortable kitchen and seated himself at table with
an air of regretful abstraction, swallowed a cup of
scalding tea with a gulp and a sigh, and remarked
* Theer's a mort o' trouble i' this world ! '
'Would tha like it better i' th' next?' asked his
wife. ' Thee men seem alius to be set on saving
trouble fur theesen i' another life. I'd rather take my
share i' this.'
Stretton sighed again, and pensively helped him-
self to buttered toast.
* Eh, Sarah, tha'd ha' been sorry fur Gresty if tha'd
' Gresty ! ' echoed Mrs. Stretton, her curiosity in-
stantly on the alert, ' what's wrong wi' him? He's to
be wed to-morrow.'
* Nay, he isna,' mysteriously.
164 Quality Corner
Mrs. Stretton eyed her husband with contemptuous
' Out wi' it ! ' she said. ' He's i' th' lockups, I'll
warrant. What's he been doing?'
' It's noan lockups, an' he's doing nowt either.
'Tis th' parson. He says he conna marry Gresty an'
' Why fur no ? ' in astonishment.
* Well,' settling himself to tell the tale, ' Gresty
went up to fix th' toime fur th' wedding, an' parson
began asking a sight o' questions an' walked down
to th' farm an' asked Mrs. Heald a sight more; an'
it came out as Mrs. Heald's husband wur a bad lot
an' run off to America some seven year back, an' hoo
never heard more on him. So hoo thowt hersen a
* An' so hoo is,' commented Mrs. Stretton.
' Parson dunnot think so. He says hoo ought leave
th' farm an' live by hersen till hoo hears summat fro'
America. An' Gresty wants to know what he an' th'
little uns mun do wi'out her ! '
'Is Mrs. Heald going?'
* Hoo hannot gone yet. It's a' an' upset-like, tha
sees. Gresty is fur setting up as man an' wife, an' if
so be as they hear th' chap's dead, they con get wed.
Seems to me parson had better ha' married 'em and
ha' done wi' it. Eh, well, theer's bound to be trouble
wheer theer's a woman.'
' Who's had th' making o' this trouble I'd like to
know?' demanded Mrs. Stretton sternly. 'Here's a
woman wed to a wastrel who runs off an' leaves her
to shift for hersen ; an' then when hoo wants to settle
down wi' a quiet chap, in comes a meddling parson
A Study of Remorse 165
as conna be content to do his work wi'out asking
questions ! I reckon a' this trouble is yo' men's doing
sure enow. If I'd ha' been i' Mrs. Heald's shoes, I'd
ha' said th' chap wur dead.'
' Ay, but that mout ha' been a sort o' bigamy,' ob-
served farmer Stretton reflectively.
' I dunnot care what it 'ud be. I'd ha' said it,' re-
sponded his wife. ' An' when tha's done thy tea tha
con put th' owd white mare i' th' cart.*
* Art tha going to th' Moss Farm ? '
' Ay, I am.'
' A' reet, I'll go too.'
About the time that the Strettons were thus dis-
cussing June's affairs, Cassilis was listening to
Gresty's indignant comments upon the curate's con-
* Th' parson's nobbut a fool. Thot's what's th'
matter wi' him. He's one o' them sprung-up chaps
as is alius meddling. I wish we'd th' owd parson
back again. He wur a real gentleman, he wur. Yo'
never found him asking questions. An' he wur a
good judge o' cattle too. This un knows neither
man nor beasts. Eh ! it's a noice job a' round.'
' I was extremely sorry when I heard of it this
morning,' said Cassilis.
' Ay, I thowt happen yo'd be sorry, seeing as Mrs.
Heald tells me yo' wur lodging wi' her an' yon wastrel
o' a husband.'
' He was a thoroughly bad lot.'
' I con well believe it. An' if he isna dead, he
They were standing in the home meadow, where
the mowers were at work. Most of the grass was cut
1 66 Quality Corner
and lying in long lines across the field. That yet
uncut stood tall and fragant, a softly rustling mass,
with a purple flush over its greenness, and vari-
coloured shimmerings of rose and gold and silken
white as the wind swayed its feathery plumes. No-
where is there so deep a sense of peace and security
as in these meadows standing ready for the scythe,
the green billows breaking into iridescent foam of
And the rest of their restlessness ! There is no
sound like that long whispering swish of deep ripe
grass. It is the very breath of sleep — tranquil, pro-
found : the softest lullaby of the world. Beyond all
this living opal of the grass of the field spread the
dusky marshland, ' moss ' in north-country tongue,
that gave the farm its name. There was summer
luxuriance here too, but of a darker, fiercer kind.
Tussocks of rank grass, tall thick rushes by the pools,
tangles of bracken and willow and hazel, with here
and there the crimson glow of heather where the
ground rose higher. The Moss was not nearly so
large as other tracts of marsh and moor in the neigh-
bourhood, but it had the same characteristics as they,
the same uncanny wildness, the same sinister beauty.
One's eyes instinctively turned to the glittering mere
curving out from the woods beyond the western verge
of the Moss. Did the marsh drain into the mere?
Or was that shining water the cause of those dark
pools? Or were moss and mere evenly balanced,
exhaling, distributing the primaeval element to earth
and air that the wonderful meadows might grow and
bloom and powder one's sleeve with pollen as one
A Study of Remorse 167
Tfiese wandering thoughts, and many others,
floated through James CassiHs's mind as he Hstened
to Gresty. It seemed pitiful that June Heald should
be thus driven from the rest she had found. But fate
seldom tires of hitting those who are down, reflected
Cassilis grimly. A darker fancy flitted across his
spirit. Did that death, Thorold's accidental death —
yes, it was accidental — throw a shadow of evil over
those indirectly concerned in it? June's husband,
June herself, Cassilis ? Then he scofifed at the fantastic
idea. What had June's husband done? Nothing.
He was not even in the house at the time. He had
always been a worthless fellow, and had happily van-
ished. What had June done? Nothing save conceal
the fact that Cassilis had been present. Perhaps it
might be better for him if she left the neighbourhood ;
but for her? — where else would she find such a home as
Thus thinking and listening, Cassilis watched the
mowers, the sweeping hiss of the scythes coming to
the ear with a sharp insistence, above the singing
whisper of the grass and the more distant sough of
the trees ; and the long green iridescent billows were
falling — falling before the steel.
Gresty followed CassiHs's glance.
' Ay,' he said, with the Norse poetic feeling, ' seems
a pity to see th' pretty stuff cut down a' in a minute,
doan't it? But it's had its day, and that's summut.
Th' Bible says as th' glory o' man is as th' flower o'
th' grass, but theer's some folks as willna let yo' ha'
any glory at a'. They'll cut yo' oflF i' th' green if yo'
let 'em. I never wur one o' that sort. I'm fur letting
folks ha' their glory, just what it may be. Some likes
1 68 Quality Corner
this, some likes that. Let 'em ha' it, say I. Now
yon parson, he isna pleased to see th' flower o' any
man's glory, be it love, or farming, or learning, or owt
else. He thinks it mun be topped a bit, loike yo' top
broad beans fur fear o' blight. But th' Lord didna
liken folk to th' beans. He likened 'em to th' grass
o' th' field as never needs topping. It's queer to me
as parson conna see that. But theer! he knows nowt
about owt, as I said afore.'
' I am afraid,' said Cassilis, ' he could hardly act
differently in this matter.'
' Oh, I'm noan blaming him fur saying he couldna
marry us when he couldna tell if yon wastrel wur
dead or no. But what call had he fur to ask about
him? Mrs. Heald wurna thinking o' th' chap one
way or another. An' I wur taking fur granted that
he wur dead. Why couldna th' parson take it fur
granted too? A gentleman doesna moither his
neighbours wi' asking questions. He wouldna de-
mean hissen to ferret about loike this new chap. It's
nowt but love o' worriting folks, that's what's th.'
matter wi' him. Will yo' go in an' see Mrs. Heald,
sir? Hoo's that moithered wi' th' parson's chunner-
ing, hoo's a'most ready to think hoo mun go out i' th'
world again. An' what's to become o' me an 'th'
little uns ? ' finished Gresty pathetically.
' I should certainly advise Mrs. Heald to remain
here, both for her own sake and that of your house-
' Then will yo' go in an' tell her so, sir ? ' this in a
tone of hopeful relief. * Happen hoo'll heed what yo'
say. It'll help fur to drive th' parson's notions out o'
her head. Hoo's doing a bit o' sewing in th' porch.'
A Study of Remorse 169
The porch was a pleasant place on a summer after-
noon, and June Heald was a pleasant sight as she
sat there. She rose and greeted Cassilis with her
usual serenity, but her cheerfulness was plainly an
effort, and after the first few words she spoke of her
' But 'tis parson saying I mun leave th' farm that
worrits me most,' she finished simply.
' Do not leave it, Mrs. Heald,' said Cassilis. ' You
are content here, and the world is a hard place. I
have been thinking that possibly your husband may
be dead. Would you like enquiries made ? I am a poor
man still,' he smiled, ' but not quite so poor as I
was when I lodged with you. I could spare a few
But this offer June refused with energy.
' No, sir, thank you. I dunnot want ever to hear
owt o' Stanham, good or bad, living or dead. I dunnot
want him to find me. He spoilt my life when I wur
young, but he shallna spoil it when I'm owd. I willna
make enquiries. I towd th' parson so, an' I amna one
to change my mind. I belong to these parts. He
doesna. An' Stanham didna either.'
In her words, as in her soul, was the subtle an-
tagonism of race, only vaguely known to herself, for
she spoke merely of the few miles of country that
encircled her youth. Her underlying idea was that
she owed no allegiance to a man not of her own
people, not of the North ; and who, moreover, had
failed to keep his part of the covenant. A dim thought
this, but the instinctive, determined, and contemptuous
recoil that produced it was linked directly with the
far past, when June's Norse forbears trampled down
lyo Quality Corner
the Saxon. There is no getting over the radical in-
stinct. It may remain in abeyance for years, but
sooner or later it surges upward like a heavy wave,
and the human being swings back to the ancestral
strain which is the strongest in him, be it Norse or
Roman, Saxon or Celt, noble or churl, freeman or
slave. And where the race is strong, argument is use-
less, for you argue, not with the individual, but with
the whole race.
Cassilis understood perfectly, and therefore said no
more concerning the missing Stanham. It was this
gift of sympathetic comprehension that had always
won him friends, both now and in the past. He re-
turned to the question of June remaining at the
' Well, Mrs. Heald, I strongly advise you to stay
here. Circumstances may change and enable you and
Gresty to marry. In any case, do not act hastily, and
do not go without seeing me. I might be able to do
' Thank you, sir. I'll tell you if I leave. 'Tis in my
mind to stay, if th' folks dunnot throw it up against
me. I couldna put up wi' ill-feeling i' th' place, an' I
shouldna like to set Gresty by th' ears wi' his neigh-
' I feel sure the neighbours will wish you to stay,
and I think I see two of them coming to see you
June's face brightened as she saw Stretton's old
white mare turn the corner by the wood, with the
farmer and his wife sitting behind in the cart; and
Cassilis took his leave, tolerably certain that Gresty and
his ' young uns ' would not be forsaken.
A Study of Remorse 171
Yet the situation had its awkwardness. He ac-
knowledged this to himself as he walked on. And of
course he had given the advice most harmful to him-
self. Was it best for June Heald? It seemed so to
him. For a woman to be wandering about the world
was a miserable thing. Probably she would end in
accepting a home far inferior to the Moss Farm.
Here was best for her.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Stretton was conferring with June
Heald in the farm parlour, and Stretton himself sought
out Gresty in the meadow.
* Good haying weather ! ' he observed by way of
beginning the conversation. ' I've browt th' missis to
see Mrs. Heald,' with a jerk of his thumb towards the
' Thank ye both fur coming,' responded Gresty
For a few moments there was silence. Then Stretton
heaved a sigh and remarked:
' I dunnot know when owt upset me as much as a'
this doment wi' parson an' a'. It's worse nor swine
fever i' th' place.'
' Nay,' said Gresty, ' I conna hold wi' that. Theer's
ways o' getting o'er this, but theer's no ways o' getting
o'er swine fever as I know on. Not but what it's bad
enow ! ' he added.
' Well,' after a pause, ' hast tha thowt o' asking
Basset's opinion ? He's thy landlord, an' he isna a bad
sort, an' sharp too.'
' Ay, he is. I ne'er thowt o' going to him. An' he's
' He'll be back fur th' Twelfth. A' Quality Corner
comes back for th' Outwood supper.'
IJ1 Quality Corner
Gresty nodded. * I know. I'll up an' tell him a'
The idea proved so cheering that both men fell to
talking of barns and shippons and many things, and
the time passed to the swish of the mowers' scythes till
the lengthening shadows warned Stretton of the hour.
' I mun be setting towards whoam,' he observed,
' though I'll warrant th' missis hasna said more'n half
her say yet. It fair beats me how women'll talk ! '
And this in the face of the fact that he and Gresty
had that moment finished a gossip of more than two
hours ! Verily the heart of man is deceitful above all
In the farm parlour Mrs. Stretton was expressing
a similar opinion of her husband.
' If I dunnot fetch him up he'll chunner till mid-
neet, an' forget a' about th' mare an' me. But theer,
when it comes to talking, there's nowt to choose be-
twixt one mon an' another. They're a' alike i' that.
Yo' never see a gate-post wi'out a mon leaning agen
it, an' another mon hanging o'er the gate telling him
* I'm main obliged to yo' fur coming,' said June
' When one doesna know what's best to do, it's a
comfort to ha' someone to talk to. I mun think it
o'er afore parson cooms again,' she added with a
' Woman,' said Mrs. Stretton emphatically, using
the word in friendly north-country fashion, ' if I wur
thee I'd stay wheer I wur, an' let parson chunner.
He's nobbut young, an' he's never had to shift fur
hissen, an' he isna a woman, an' them three things
make a sight o' difference.'
DURING the next three weeks the situation at the
Moss Farm was the chief topic of interest in
Ringway. The market-place discussed it from every
possible point of view. At the farm life went on as
usual, June ruling the household with old Martha as
About twice a week Gresty joined the perennial
group of gossipers round Sol Ingers' doorstep, his
presence adding to the general interest.
* I've made up my moind to see what Basset says
to it a',' he announced each time that he appeared
' an' I'll abide by what he says, if so be as it seems to
Which is an eminently judicious position to take up
in the face of advice, admitting of advance or retreat
as may be convenient.
' I conna see how Basset '11 fettle it,' observed a
bystander one day. ' He conna make th' parson
marry 'em if he willna. But o' course th' parson's
nobbut a fool, as Gresty says. He ought marry 'em
an' say no more about it. If a wastrel runs off
to America an' willna coom back, he's as good as
This speech met with universal assent. Old Sol,
standing on the top step, slowly took a large pinch
of snuff out of the historical box, and holding the
powder between his finger and thumb, said impres-
174 Quality Corner
' Parson's reet.' He then applied the snuff to his
nose, and after a pause of enjoyment, added with
equal emphasis : ' An' so are we ! '
' Eh, but yo' conna both be reet,' said another
Sol regarded the speaker with tolerant disdain.
' Lad, if so be as tha lives seventy years, an' th' Lord
grants thee more sense than tha's getten now, tha'll
know that folks con say opposite things an' yet both
be reet. That's one o' th' ways o' this world that
a mon learns just when he's getting ready to go out
So passed the green and grey days, with blowing
winds from the sea, and soft showers, and gleams of
sunshine, and this was summer in Ringway.
The second week of August brought the wanderers
back to Quality Corner. Emily Darnton was the first
to return. She drove up one afternoon with the Out-
wood Occlestons in their ■ family omnibus, and re-
ceived an excited welcome from her old dog.
' You have taken good care of Ponto, and I am
duly grateful,' she said as Cassilis came out to greet
* It seems very unfair that Dr. Cassilis should stay
at home taking care of a dog while we have all been
enjoying ourselves ; ' this from Mrs. Occleston.
* I shall begin to enjoy myself now my neighbours
are returning,' he replied.
' I should like to know how my particular neigh-
bour has been enjoying himself,' said Occleston.
' How has he been passing the time? — Pugh, I mean.
Poisoning my pheasants? Or giving socialistic tracts
to my keepers? Or writing letters in the county
A Study of Remorse 175
papers to prove me a bloated ruffian, and that preserv-
ing game is rather worse than burglary and mur-
' None of these things. His rheumatism has kept
' Well, I'm sorry for the poor chap if he is screwed
up with rheumatism. I have felt so amiable lately
that I have thought once or twice of asking him to
the grouse supper. It seems uncivil to hold a festival
and not to invite the fellow at one's gates.'
* He would probably accept,' said Cassilis, ' but he
is still in bed and not likely to get out at present. '
' I'd send him a brace of birds if he would eat them,
but when I sent them last year he solemnly buried
them in his garden as a protest ! Well, we must be
going. See you all on Saturday.'
And the omnibus lumbered off up the road, Mrs.
Occleston and the boys waving farewell.
Cassilis turned to Emily.
' Now what can I do for you ? '
* Nothing, thank you,' she replied gaily. ' My mod-
est luggage is already indoors, and I told the servants
to have something in the house.'
' " Something " is a little vague. My dinner is on
the point of being served. It is a small bird, just
large enough for two. Would it be very improper if
I invited you to dine with me ? '
' I am afraid it would. What a pity ! '
' I have been told that Ringway is Fairyland.
Can it be possible that Mrs. Grundy exists in Fairy-
' Oh, Dr. Cassilis, she exists everywhere.'
' How would it do if we had the dinner-table brousfht
176 Quality Corner
out into the road here, so that everyone might observe
our innocent feasting ? '
Emily laughed. ' Think of the dust blowing over
the bird — so gritty ! '
' True. Then I have another idea. I believe a
consulting room is universally acknowledged to be
beyond reproach. Shall we dine in my consulting
room? I could prescribe half the bird, you know,
and eat the other half myself by way of proving the
harmlessness of the dose.'
* You are most kind, but '
' I see you hesitate. Well, I will send my whole
dinner into your house, and perhaps you will throw
me the scraps when you have finished.'
' Oh no, I could not possibly so spoil your dinner.
Thank you all the same. I really could not be so
* Then how ? ' Cassilis left the sentence un-
finished, for at that moment Thea and Basset turned
into the Corner.
' I thought you two were still away ! ' exclaimed
' We are just walking up from the station,' replied
' Hearing terrible scandals by the way,' put in
Basset. ' Old Sol buttonholed us as we passed the
' Can old Sol be the Mrs. Grundy of whom Miss
Darnton stands in fear?' suggested Cassilis. 'She,
like yourselves, has just arrived, and I have vainly
tried to persuade her to dine with me. Finally I
proposed to send her my dinner on condition that
A Study of Remorse 177
she left me a few scraps. At that point of our dis-
cussion you came up.'
' Dine with me, both of you,' said Basset decisively.
' Dinner in an hour.'
Thus the pleasant life recommenced ; the mingled
atmosphere of friendliness, culture, irresponsibility and
comfort that made Basset's house so attractive ; and
the solitary man's heart was light as the blowing dust
when again he stood in the familiar drawing-room,
with its flickering wood fire that brightened as the
August twilight fell.
* The air is full of mignonette,' he said as he en-
tered. * Does it come from the garden, or is it here? '
' Both,' replied Thea. * Emily and I have filled all
the bowls and glasses. It is our home-coming perfume.
To-night you will dine with mignonette and ship-logs,
a kind of sea and land entertainment.'
She was standing near the long window opening
into the verandah and the dark rustling garden, and
the light behind her was dim and blue. Through the
opposite window came the dying red of the sunset,
and little wavering violet flames shot up from the
burning logs. In the dusky room these crossing lights
gave an air of unreality to the slender graceful figure,
the filmy grey draperies, the brown coils of hair,
all shadowy, undefined, only the sparkle of a jewel
here and there, and the deeper brilliance of the dark
Cassilis looked, and his first thought of her came
back to him. Yes, she gave the idea of a Dryad.
There seemed no incongruity in the fancy that she
might melt into the twilight, taking shape again as
lyS ' Quality Corner
rustling leaf and smooth shining stem. Or as he
remembered her on the hillside at midnight, a dim
shadow with starry eyes in the midst of shadows, an
almost invisible presence in the dewy gloom, with the
Scorpion's star- jewels blazing above the woods. All
the glamour of her presence rushed over him afresh,
the reckless exhilaration that she inspired. What
was the past to him? — or all the entangling net that
seemed to be round his feet? He cared for nothing
save that subtle charm that was so peculiarly Thea's ;
the impression of transience, of dew, of changing
light and shadow, of something just beyond reach
and therefore the more desired. The eternal per-
versity of human nature ! Why could he not choose
Emily Darnton. She would make him an excellent
wife ; good-looking, pleasant, clever, suitable in every
way. But Cassilis turned instinctively, as he had done
ten years before, to that inspiring joyousness which
made him forget his troubles, to the airy brightness
that lifted him above his forebodings, that restored to
him in a measure the happy expectancy which the
starving years destroy: — all this he had once found
in his dead friend's companionship, and had lost ; and
now that such companionship again beckoned, what
wonder that he followed?
He strove to check the turmoil of his brain ; to
listen to what Basset was saying.
' Mignonette I consider the scent of home, of
serenity, of the country. It will not flourish in towns,
it needs sun and dew. It has neither colour nor form
to attract the eye ; but is simply an exquisite perfume
of grey old gardens, calming and refreshing.'
A Study of Remorse 179
' Together with the fire,' said Emily. * What is
more calming than a fire? I always welcome Sep-
tember, because then one can pretend it is winter.'
' Why pretend it is winter ? ' asked Thea. ' Why
not have the courage of your convictions and light a
fire when you wish for one, as we do? The fire-
worshipper is the free man. He who shivers before
an empty grate is a slave to prejudice and penny
' I always buy a threepenny one,' said Cassilis.
' That is worse ! Two-pennyworth more of prej-
udice,' she rejoined laughing.
Here a servant came in with a message for Basset.
' Mr. Eade wishes to see me,' he said, rising. Mr.
Eade was the senior curate in whose charge Ringway
had been placed by its absent vicar. ' If he stays
more than a few minutes I shall ask him to dine with
us. Anything is better than keeping dinner waiting.
I have invited him before, but he has refused. He
does not wholly approve of me — an unreasonable atti-
tude on his part, for I am a most orthodox Church-
man. He prefers Galloway, and often dines there ;
probably because the food is so terrible and the col-
ouring of the rooms penitential. I do not know why
bad dinners and aggressively-coloured walls should be
regarded as proofs of true religion ? '
' They are mortifications of body and soul,' sug-
' And is that true religion ? '
' Oh, Daddy, don't stand here asking riddles, but
go and see Mr. Eade. Dinner will be ready in ten
i8o Quality Corner
Basset walked towards the door. ' Have you ever
met him, Cassilis ? '
' Eade ? Oh yes. At patients' bedsides. I agree
with him very well.'
' Do you ? ' Basset stopped, evidently impressed.
' How do you manage it ? '
' Oh, I never contradict.*
* Ah,' Basset started towards the door again.
' There are times, my dear Cassilis, when contradic-
tion is inevitable, and I have a conviction that this is
going to be one of the tim.es.'
It was once remarked of an eminent statesman that
he was a good man in the worst sense of the term.
Perhaps the same observation might apply equally
well to the Reverend Philip Eade, for he was one of
those good men who are the despair of the wise.
Nature having denied him every quality necessary in
a ruler, he naturally aspired to be one ; and the capers
he joyfully cut when dressed in his little brief authority
not only made the angels weep, but exasperated his
fellow men, which was worse.
The position of a senior curate whose vicar is abroad
is usually an enviable one ; he can make himself such
a stupendous nuisance if he feels so inclined. In Ring-
way, however, there is a restraining force not less
strong because at first unfelt. The quietude of the
stream of life here was deceptive; in it were unsus-
pected currents against which no man could pull.
Philip Eade had previously lived in a southern cathe-
dral city, where life was as a brawling brook, clear,
shallow, tinkling. Therefore he set out gaily on the
slow tide of Ringway, deeming it but a sluggish canal.
A Study of Remorse i8i
Presently he became aware of an opposing current.
Nobody said anything, nobody did anything. His
various sacerdotal experiments met with no resistance
save that subtle resistance which is not to be resisted,
the resistance of race. He felt he made little or no
impression on the place. The stream flowed on and
carried him with it despite his efforts.
Now power is the one thing most desired by all
mankind; it appeals alike to age and youth, to saint
and sinner. He who is too young or too saintly to
clutch at gold, too old or too dull for love, will grasp
at power. The senior curate ardently desired to rule,
and this desire neutralised such good qualities as he
possessed. Failing to understand the people, he dis-
liked them, and imagined many slights where none
had been intended ; notably in the instance of Stret-
ton sending for him to offer up a prayer for the cows.
Indeed the Reverend Philip had never forgotten that
occurrence. It rankled in his mind at intervals,
giving him a feeling of distrust towards the Ringway
farmers, and a dim wish to get the better of one of
them some day. Not that he would have acknowl-
edged this for a moment, even to himself. He would
have been shocked at its sinfulness. Yet the wish
was assuredly there, and swayed him considerably in
his attitude towards the Moss Farm. In short,
Stretton had offended him, therefore he would take
it out of Gresty ! It is curious that people with
severe consciences have no conscientiousness. They
will do things that for pure meanness and glaring
injustice fairly raise the hair of the average sinner,
and will still remain happily persuaded that they
i82 Quality Corner
themselves are the most honourable of mankind.
Had Stretton's cows never needed prayer, Eade
would have married June and Gresty without put-
ting the questions that made that marriage impossible.
But Stretton had introduced June Heald to the Moss
Farm, and Stretton and Gresty were old friends ; there-
fore Eade felt it his duty to make careful inquiries, and
was rewarded. He told himself, however, that he was
So this evening, hearing that Basset had returned
home, the Reverend Philip resolved to lose no time,
and now sat in Basset's study, explaining the situa-
' I heard the story in the market-place this after-
noon,' said Basset when the curate paused.
Eade looked slightly taken aback.
' From Gresty ? '
' Oh no, old Ingers told me.'
' That man is a terrible gossip,' vexedly.
* I fear I am another,' Basset rejoined. ' I am inter-
ested in my neighbours and tenants, and I was sorry
to hear there were difficulties in the way of the mar-
riage, which seemed to me very suitable. Why have
you come to me in the matter ? '
Eade hesitated a moment.
' I thought that being Gresty 's landlord, you would
remonstrate with him on the impropriety of the woman
' A pity you did not marry them before you were
aware that Mrs. Heald was not a widow. Certainly
it would be awkward if the husband should turn up.
Husbands have a trick of appearing at inconvenient
moments. That is why I have remained a bachelor.
A Study of Remorse 183
I have always been so afraid of appearing at an incon-
venient moment. How did you hear that the man was
Hving ? '
' From Mrs. Heald herself when I made further in-
quiries as to who she was, and how long she had been
a widow. She stated that she has had no news of him
since he went to America seven years ago.'
* Is that all ? Why did you make the inquiries ? '
' I thought I ought to know,' replied the curate, un-
conscious that he thereby ' let in ' his adversary, who
' Ah, there it is ! — the old bait of knowledge. We
cannot get rid of Eden, our curiosity is rampant as
ever. We all take a bite out of the apple now and then,
some of us from the green side, others from the rosy ;
but we all bite more or less, sooner or later. A trick
to be regretted, as knowledge really seems to bring a
deal of trouble in its train, from the stitching of the
fig-leaves down to too close acquaintance with our
' It is a duty to oppose a bigamous marriage,' re-
marked Eade with severity.
' Undoubtedly. But in this case the man is possibly
dead. Also, in Gresty's class a risk may be run which
would be too dangerous in ours. I do not see how I
can interfere. In fact, I would rather not.'
' But I am told that Gresty meditates getting the
marriage ceremony performed elsewhere.'
' A capital idea ! ' responded Basset, smiling.
' Do you call it moral, Mr. Basset ? '
' I am not sure. It will, however, be conducive to
The curate shook his head.
184 Quality Corner
' Allow me to explain,' continued Basset. ' I am
aware that in this matter I am wrong. I cannot de-
fend my own attitude. And I fear I am also aware
that I shall continue in the same indefensible attitude.'
' That is much to be deplored,' said the curate
' It is,' Basset agreed. ' This is another instance of
the extremely annoying nature of evil-doing. Because
the man Heald behaved badly seven years ago, I now
feel obliged to encourage Gresty to contract an illegal
marriage with another man's wife.'
' I see no obligation to encourage wrongdoing.'
' Well, if I oppose the idea, Gresty and the woman
will simply set up housekeeping together without any
ceremony ; in which case poor Mrs. Heald runs the
risk of being turned out some day. I do not think
Gresty would do it, but in these matters no man is
to be trusted. Whereas he will consider himself
bound by a ceremony. That it is perhaps an illegal
one is of no consequence. He will believe in it.'
' I should feel it my duty to protest.'
' I hope not. Very likely the man Heald is dead.
You might therefore be protesting against a perfectly
This was another view of the case. Eade was silent
for a moment ; then he said irritably :
* It seems to me that people behave very badly.'
* They do,' replied Basset sympathetically, * they
always do. We all behave badly more or less — so
those invariably say who try to govern us. And now
to turn to a more pleasant subject. In my house the
dinner bell is never rung. I consider the noise bar-
barous — in fact, scholastic, which is a degree lower
A Study of Remorse 185
than barbarism. But the hour tells me that the meal
is ready. I hope you will join us. Miss Darnton is
here, and Cassilis '
' No, thank you. I have ordered a chop at my lodg-
' My dear sir,' he said earnestly, ' a chop is a terrible
thing unless prepared with the utmost judgment. I
beg of you to stay and dine with me, and let the chop
remain what it is now — a vision, not a reality.'
And rather to his own surprise, the curate accepted
THE next day dawned warm and blue, and Quality
Corner spent the hours in hearing each other's
adventures and relating their own. Gresty, in his best
clothes and wearing a hopeful and determined air, pre-
sented himself at Number Two almost before Basset
had finished breakfast.
* I thowt I'd be betimes,' he remarked apologetically
when Basset came into the study, ' but I didna mean
fur to disturb folks at their meals. I con wait, Basset.'
' No, no. I am glad to see you. I think I can guess
what has brought you here. Old Sol told me some-
thing of it yesterday.'
' Ay, did he? Then yo' see how 'tis wi' me an' Mrs.
Heald an' yon parson,' and Gresty poured out his woes
and perplexities with evident relief.
' But I wur saying to owd Sol/ he concluded, ' that
theer's more churches nor one, an' parsons as dunnot
spend a' their toime i' asking questions. I've more'n
half a mind fur to get wed elsewheer, an' Mrs. Heald
is agreeable, but hoo's feart o' th' parson getting wind
on't an' bouncing up to forbid th' banns.'
* Try Woffendale,' suggested Basset. ' No one will
notice the names there.'
' Ay, that would do,' replied Gresty reflectively. ' I
reckon one or other of us mun lodge theer a bit, an' I
conna leave the farm. It'll ha' to be Mrs. Heald, an'
A Study of Remorse 187
that's bad enow, wi' nobbut owd jMartha to see to
things. But happen we could make shift. I'm send-
ing green-stuff twice a week to th' market theer. I
could go o'er i' th' carts an' see her. Fur that matter,
hoo could coom out here by th' train fur th' day. Ay,
it 'ud do well. Speaking o' names, Mrs. Heald tells
me th' mon's name wur Stanham.'
' Stanham ? ' repeated Basset.
' Ay, Stanham it wur. But seeing he wur a bad lot,
hoo took her own name again, which wur Heald. Hap-
pen we'd best put th' name down as Stanham? I towd
her I'd ask yo' about it.'
' I think so,' said Basset. ' I will see what Air. Ru-
dell says and will let you know to-day. By the way,
what is Mrs. Heald's Christian name? '
' " June," ' replied Gresty with pride. ' 'Tis a pretty
name, and hoo's like it.'
' It is a pretty name,' Basset agreed. ' I should ad-
vise you to lose no time, Gresty.'
' I dunnot mean to. I've loissen toime enow a'ready
wi' th' worrit on't. I'm much obliged to you'. Basset,
fur talking it o'er, an' so will Mrs. Heald be. Hoo's
a good-looking w^oman,' he added as he rose to go.
* I'd like y' to see her.'
' 1 will drive down to the farm this afternoon,' said
Basset. ' Wait a moment.'
He turned to a writing-table and slipped a bank-
note into an envelope.
' Give this to ]\Irs. Heald with my best wishes. It
will pay expenses and buy her a new gown.'
' Eh, now, Basset, theer wur no call fur yo' to do
that. But hoo'll be main pleased, thank yo'.'
Gresty departed, leaving Basset with the conscious-
1 88 Quality Corner
ness of having done a good action which would be
condemned by all right-minded persons. Rudell was
one of these same persons. He strolled in later for
chess, and having heard the story over the game, he
slowly took a pinch of snuff, remarking with em-
' Basset, it is clear to me that one of these days I
shall see you in the dock, and myself running about
for counsel to defend you.'
' Well, get the best. I shall not grudge the ex-
' It is monstrous. The parson is right and you are
' Pooh ! The man is most likely dead.'
' Not he. When a man ought to die, he never does.
That marriage of Gresty's will probably not be legal.'
' They will think it is.'
' I don't see what that has to do with it.'
' But I do.'
' One of these days Gresty will find out the illegality
and throw the woman over.'
'No, he won't. He has no more belief in the law
than you have.'
'I? Why I belong to it.'
* Therefore you don't believe in it, save for others.
That is the way we all believe in it.'
Here Basset moved a pawn, which Rudell captured.
' I believe in law and order,' said Rudell.
* Oh, law — ^law. There are things above law.'
' Well, beyond law.'
' Do you consider your advice to Gresty moral ? '
' That is what the curate asked me last night/ said
A Study of Remorse 189
Basset reflectively, contemplating the chessboard. * I
am sure I do not know. What is one to do? Some-
times there really seems nothing for it but to put one's
morals in one's pocket and go ahead.'
* For an orthodox Christian, Basset, your sentiments
Basset sighed and moved his king.
* It is the wise men who do the most foolish things,'
Rudell went on. ' Why could you not consult me
before advising Gresty ? '
Basset shook his head. ' To consult others is to
cramp one's individuality. To preserve one's freedom
it is necessary to act first and discuss the action after-
* At the risk of possible repentance?'
' Why not? If you are afraid of being drowned you
will never learn to swim.'
Silence again for awhile.
' Ah, I have lost,' said Rudell, ' and I do not think
there is time for another game before lunch. Look
here, Basset, that Gresty business is a mistake. You
would do better to be the virtuous landlord and urge
Gresty to let the woman go and seek her husband,
which she would probably do.'
* Impossible ! '
' Nothing is impossible, save universal reform.
Lord! it makes me grin to hear our teachers predict
the virtuous era that is coming. As if mankind will
ever be different in the main to what they have ever
been. The human race is a spinning top, swaying
from side to side and preserving its equilibrium by that
same swaying. One generation is sober and vicious,
the next is drunk and virtuous. One generation be-
ipo Quality Corner
lieves in law and order and behaves accordingly. Its
successor kicks over the traces and howls for all-satis-
' Can anarchy be all-satisfying ? '
' It cannot. Therefore they howl for it. When did
men clamour for any reasonable thing ? Mankind have
cried for the moon ever since it shone in heaven, and
it is only a dead world after all.'
' Why, Rudell, you are positively brilliant ! '
' Oh, I think a little at times. Just for a change,
and to keep up my reputation for being old-fashioned.'
Basset laughed. ' By the way,' he said, ' I told
Gresty I would ask you whether Mrs. Heald must be
married in her husband's surname? It seems she
dropped it and resumed her maiden name.'
' Considering the marriage is pretty certain to be
illegal it cannot much matter what name she is mar-
ried in,' responded the lawyer drily. ' But she had
better stick to the husband's. What was it ? '
' Stanham,' said Basset.
' Stanham ? ' echoed Rudell ; * and you say she lived
in Bramsall ! Do you mean to tell me this June Heald
is June Stanham, of Mill Street ? '
' She may not be the same, though I confess the
name struck me. It is unusual.'
* I will go down to the farm with you and look at
her. I should know her.'
' Well,' Basset spoke reluctantly, ' of course you can
see her, but I would rather not have that old trouble
stirred up. We cannot bring poor Thorold back again,
and why harass the living? She seemed to have done
' I am not sure of that.'
A Study of Remorse 191
' You were satisfied with her evidence.'
' I am never satisfied with any evidence, but I have
to accept it if I cannot prove it false. Nobody speaks
the truth unless by accident.'
' The evidence was reasonable and probable enough.'
' Which makes me doubt it. The unreasonable and
improbable things are those that really happen. For
instance, what could seem more improbable, than that
June Stanham should drift here and marry a tenant
of yours ? '
* Leave her in peace,' said Basset. ' She appears to
have had enough trouble of her own. Do not cross-
question her again about that old grief of ours. We
cannot bring Thorold back. I feel as certain now as
I did ten years ago that it was pure accident. He is
not the first man who has swallowed the wrong medi-
' It was not the wrong medicine. It was poison in
mistake for medicine. How did it get among his
things ? The woman did not seem to know. I believe
she did know.'
* Thorold was rather given to having chemicals
' I don't call prussic acid a chemical. Besides, he
had just then a fad for inventing some machine or
other, goodness knows what ! If you had not been
laid up at the time, Basset, you would not have been
so easily satisfied that all was right.'
' Was I easily satisfied ? From your account of the
matter, it appeared to be an unhappy accident, for
which no one but Thorold himself was responsible. I
thought you concurred in the verdict.'
* " Death by misadventure " — yes, I did in a way.
192 Quality Corner
What else could I do But when I have turned the
affair over in my mind I have doubted the misadven-
ture. I should like to unravel the mystery.'
' I see no reason to imagine any mystery. Let the
' If it will. My experience is that the past has a
trick of waking up in the most unexpected manner.'
Here Rudell took out his snuff-box again. ' Most,
singular that June Stanham should come to this place.
Well, I must be going. Nice way of spending the
morning ! Chess and gossip.'
* I know no better way of spending a summer morn-
ing — at our age. It is not profitable to sit grey-haired
in the sun, remembering the old dreams. But you are
a married man.'
' And I shall have the fact impressed upon me if I
am not back in time for lunch. Where is Cassilis ? '
' Do you want him ? He has gone to Outwood for
the day's shooting.'
' Whether his patients will let him or no? '
' He could be fetched. Anthony is there too.'
' So is Parfitt. I wish somebody would shoot him
by accident. I'm sick of him.'
' Pleasing sentiments towards a brother-in-law ! ' re-
' Because he chances to be my brother-in-law. All
relationships are more or less annoying, generally
more. He will be back by five, ready to walk over to
the supper later.'
' Cassilis said he should be home by six. I asked
him to dinner.'
Rudell eyed his friend sternly. ' Do you mean to
say, Basset, that you intend to eat a seven o'clock din-
A Study of Remorse 193
ner — one of your dinners — by way of preparation for a
grouse supper at ten ? '
' Why not ? But dinner is at six to-night.'
' Well — er — I wish you would invite me also. My
wife has ordered a sort of meal called high tea.'
' Better bring your wife too, and Parfitt with her.
I believe Thea has asked Emily Darnton, and I rather
expect Tony Occleston.'
' You will not drive ? '
' Not on such a night as this promises to be.'
They were standing at Basset's door, looking into
the hot sunny street, where the grey dust lay thickly.
' Not a water-cart this morning ! ' growled Rudell.
' Of course not. They never disturb the harmony
of things. That is why they only appear after a
Rudell laughed and descended the steps.
' Well, good-bye for the present. Thanks for the
THAT hot Twelfth died in crimson flame behind a
low bank of purple cloud. Then the red west
slowly changed through orange to luminous green, in
which lingered a faint warm stain like wine dropped
into clear sea-water. By-and-by even this stain faded,
leaving only that mysterious green light which in its
far-away shining gives such a curious sense of in-
The light still glimmered in the west when Quality
Corner collected itself and set off to walk to Outwood
through the sapphire dusk. The eight went up the
dim white road in straggling fashion, endeavouring to
sort themselves to their own satisfaction and their
neighbours' annoyance. The result, however, only
pleased one individual, Mark Parfitt, who contrived to
place himself by Thea's side, and kept the position.
Emily Darnton, who would have liked Cassilis for a
companion, found herself talking to Tony Occleston.
While Cassilis was swept off by Mrs. Rudell, who kept
well in the rear, together with Basset and Rudell, who
strolled along discussing various matters on which
they never agreed.
The night was one of breathless heat and stillness.
There was no moon, but the blue overhead was star-
sown. Cassilis looked towards the south-west. There
shone the Scorpion's Heart ; redly, angrily ; as it had
shone on Midsummer Eve when he and Thea Basset
A Study of Remorse 195
had gone to gather fern-seed on this same hillside, up
this same road. Years seemed to have passed since
then, yet the actual time was but a few weeks. And
still looking at blazing Antares, he further decided that
Parfitt's behaviour this evening was intolerable, and
that on the return journey it should not be permitted.
Meanwhile the artist, having got a fair start, was en-
deavouring to make the best of his time. But nature,
in bestowing on him unlimited vanity, had hopelessly
handicapped him as a lover. The two passions are
incompatible. Love and hate, as fire and wind, har-
monise well enough. A man will kick another fellow
into a ditch with all the greater energy if the latter
chances to be a rival ; and will finish up by doing his
own love-making with vastly increased fervour. But
love and vanity, as fire and water, cannot co-exist ; one
©r the other must go. Parfitt's vanity could not go.
It was ingrain. Now the distinctive efifect of vanity
on the character is monotony. The mind is fixed on
the contemplation of the mighty Ego, an excellent atti-
tude for getting on in the world, but a terribly boring
one in a companion. Whereas the capacity for being a
good lover, whether masculine or feminine, includes
all the infinite variety of life ; the whole personality
swings like the magnetic needle, true to the one point,
but also ranging the whole compass of the world ;
responsive to every touch of feeling, every varying
mood of nature, or passing phase of circumstance.
Not being a bom lover, the witchery of that
summer night had no effect on Mark Parfitt. He
talked on ; smooth, ready, fairly amusing ; his level
chilly tones changing not for any influence from
without, taking no deeper softer ring from dew and
196 Quality Corner
stars and the wonderful gloom of the woods. For
that gloom of the moonless summer night was very-
wonderful within those woods. As the little com-
pany passed from the comparative light of the road
into the vast leafy shadow, the low-lying cloud on
the western horizon rose higher, arabesques of
summer lightning playing over its darkness. The
leafy aisles looked like dim caverns of dark serpen-
tine or lapis-lazuli, Ht by the sudden flickering
gleams of the lightning and the faint shining of the
stars. Scents of moss and peat and wild thyme filled
the warm air. Now and then the breathless silence
was broken by soft scurries of some small animal,
the flutter of a startled bird, and that slow whispering
sigh that is always heard in woods, no matter how
still the air.
' Alive like sound ' — few notice how living is sound ;
that is, natural sound. There is only one non-natural
sound that is alive, the violin. All others are dead
unless the life of the world, the Breath of God — call it
which you will, it is the same — animates that which
makes them ; whether creature or leaf, swing of water
or rush of wind. Without living sound, the earth is
a vision. Here in the dewy darkness, all might have
been a dream but for these stirrings of the life hidden
in the velvet gloom. There are world-sounds so deli-
cate that save in extreme stillness they cannot be heard
at all. The well-nigh inaudible flutter of ripening
growth in the full tide of summer; the tinkling of
dropping seeds ; the feathery whirr of moths ; the sin-
gular click of the green dragonfly's wings as he turns
in his zigzag flight; and in time of snow, the faint
crackling of dead leaves shrivelling under the fiery
A Study of Remorse 197
touch of the frost. These are Earth's heart-beats, and
you must lie very close to hear them.
To-night these little eerie sounds that ruffled the
silence as a breeze ruffles the sea, deepened the curious
sense of unreality that stole over most of those whose
feet passed so noiselessly over the soft path of sand or
moss, fir-needles, or the short elastic turf of the open
glades. Where were they going? — to Outwood
through Ringway Woods ? Or were they drifting for
ever onward through the forest of Broceliande, where
Merlin lies in unquiet slumber and the leaves whisper
spells : a dim enchanted world of crouching shadows,
of fierce unseen life, waiting to take sudden shape and
form, to spring and vanish, swift as the white light-
ning that flared now and again through that close roof
of whispering leaves. Unconsciously the voices
changed, took somewhat of the velvet of the gloom.
Conversation ceased to be continuous ; a few words
seemed enough in that levin-lit darkness. Parfitt alone
kept up a steady flow of small talk, his clear flat tones
sounding oddly incongruous. But his perceptions were
fairly keen, and as he thus talked on he was sensible
that he would not much longer be able to keep Thea
by his side. The company showed an inclination to
draw together, probably with a view to rearranging
themselves in more congenial fashion. Also, Thea's
step was lingering and Mark felt that her attention
was given to him from politeness, not interest. Yet
he did not think she wished for Cassilis's or Anthony's
companionship. He had an impression that she was
pondering some question of which he was wholly ig-
norant ; an engrossing question too, for there seemed a
certain tension about her that puzzled him.
198 Quality Corner
They were crossing the broad glade where Cassi-
lis and Thea had taken shelter under the chestnut the
day he first went to Outwood. Here the dense olive
shadow of the close-growing trees changed to the
blue dusk of the starlit open space ; the short turf
looking dark in the starlight, dim grey when the
lightning quivered over it. Away to the right was
the sloping ground down which Cassilis had walked
blindfolded ; the clump of beeches — he recalled it all
as he listened to Mr. Rudell's shrill chatter, and
m.editated how to deprive Parfitt of his companion.
Before them the wood closed in again ; mysterious
caverns of lovely blue-green darkness filled with
flickering glimmers. Here in the open the air had a
different perfume ; not of moss or resinous fir, but
that peculiar scent of sun-burnt earth and fern that
the touch of night releases, a pungent odour that min-
gles with the wild thyme and mints, and is the breath
of fullest summer. As they crossed the glade Thea
stopped and waved her hand towards Antares flaming
in the southern blue.
' The Scorpion's Heart beats well up there,' she
said, addressing the company generally.
' Trust a Scorpion's Heart to beat well,' responded
Anthony. ' It is only our poor human hearts that go
Thea laughed softly. ' How dismal you are, Tony ! '
. ' And when I have been doing my best to entertain
him ! ' protested Emily.
'Do you find this world so unsatisfactory?' en-
quired Parfitt with a faint ring of mockery in his cool
' I am not crying for the next, if you mean that,'
A Study of Remorse 199
replied Anthony aggressively. * I don't sec the use of
going to Heaven before you have had all you want here.'
' How dreadfully greedy ! — to wish for the best of
both worlds ! ' this from Emily.
' Well, I'll choose this,' said Tony doggedly, ' and
chance the next.'
' That is what most people do, and lose both,' com-
Here Basset interposed. ' How do you know ?
Eight out of every ten of us lose this world ; but your
assertion respecting the next is a statement so wild
that one would think you were in the witness-box. I
have always observed,' added Basset dreamily, ' that
the wildest statements are made in what are humor-
ously called courts of Justice.'
Rudell chuckled. ' The witness-box is a useful in-
stitution,' he remarked. ' Indeed, one may say that law
is an eminently useful institution. You w'ould be all
the better for more of it. In fact, I am of opinion
that I should make an admirable despot.'
' So far as my memory goes,' said Basset drily,
' the only lawyer who ever attained to absolute power
was Robespierre, and he can hardly be considered a
* That's a nasty one,' Rudell obser^^ed medita-
tively, consoling himself with a pinch of snuff ; ' and
I don't seem to have an answer ready. Never mind,
some brilliant response will occur to me by-and-by.'
During this conversation the little company had
drawn more closely together, and were walking in a
straggling cluster. There seemed a chance of casting
Parfitt into outer darkness and taking his place ; so
CassiUs, having dexterously got Basset on the other
200 Quality Corner
side of Mrs. Rudell, quietly moved away towards Thea,
His intentions, however, were observed and promptly
frustrated by Mark's sister.
' Dr. Cassilis ! Where are you ? ' she cried. ' We
must have your opinion. Which world do you recom-
mend? But I am sure you will point us to Heaven.'
' Your belief is hardly complimentary to my pro-
fessional skill,' he responded. ' Am I not expected
to keep people on this earth as long as possible ? '
Tony Occleston lifted up his voice again : ' And
as for losing both by enjoying this, it's downright
nonsense. For of course by the best of this one
means the best, not the worst; and to get the best
one must do one's best. So why should not one have
' The whole question depends on what one regards
as the best of this world,' said Cassilis.
' Well, not the loaves and fishes,' said Tony.
' Do I hear the Corner engaged in a theological dis-
cussion while on its way to the Grouse Supper ? *
asked a voice from the shadowy aisles ahead — a mas-
culine voice, clear, full, and sweet ; half-laughing, half-
imperious. Cassilis wondered what the owner of that
voice was like.
Quality Corner responded by a general chorus of
' Why, Herries,' said Basset, ' I did not know you
were home again.'
' I returned two days ago,' replied the new-comer.
' This evening I rode over to Outwood and then
walked on to meet you ; but was fearing you had gone
by the road, when your voices reached my ear.'
' Tony was uttering the most terrible sentiments,'
A Study of Remorse aoi
said Thea, ' and because in our secret hearts we all
agreed with him, we were preparing to fall upon and
rend him. This is the subject of dispute: what is
the best of this world ? '
* I should say there cannot be the smallest difficulty
in deciding that,' replied Herries.
A broad gleam of lightning lit the glade, changing
the olive and sapphire shadows to fierce black, and
the dusky grass to blurred grey. For a moment every
face was visible in the white glare. Then it vanished,
and the deep subtle colouring of the blue summer night
reappeared in the starlight.
That brief moment showed the speaker to be a
young man, perhaps thirty; tall, broad-shouldered,
rather heavily built; with a general look of activity
about him. There was also another look about him,
the indefinite yet unmistakable air of the lover — a buoy-
ant, hopeful lover.
The pale electric blaze showed also the disorganised
condition of the party. Herries' arrival seemed to
have had the effect of completing the scattering ten-
dency that had begun when the glade was reached.
Only he and Thea were side by side ; the others stood
here and there, widely apart. Emily Damton and
Rudell looked amused, Anthony troubled, Basset
pleased, Susette Rudell puzzled and annoyed, while
Parfitt wore his most supercilious aspect.
' No difficulty whatever ! ' repeated Herries as the
soft gloom fell round them once more. Then he and
Thea seemed to melt into the woodland shadows
ahead ; the murmur of their voices coming faintly
back on the warm air.
It was Basset who next broke the silence :
202 Quality Corner
* There may be heaven ; there must be hell ;
Meantime, there is our earth here.
We were young once, eh, Rudell ? '
' I was never young,' replied Rudell emphatically.
' Not in your sense.'
' What is the meaning of all this ? Who is this fel-
low ? ' Parfitt irritably asked his sister ; subduing his
voice, however, that the others might not hear.
' Oh, he lives about twelve miles off, beyond Out-
wood,' replied Mrs. Rudell in the same subdued tones.
' He has a nice place, but no money. I thought she had
refused him. He went off somewhere about four
' A pretty fool you have let me make of myself ! '
' Not at all. You have just as much chance as he
' I don't think I care to take any more chances. You
ought to have told me of this Herries in the back-
' Tony Occleston will hear you.'
' Let him ! ' said Parfitt, moving away.
The party had arranged itself anew and followed
Thea and Herries through the dark aisles. Cassilis
was walking with Emily Darnton, so Mark joined
Basset ; while Anthony, depressed in spirit, drifted into
desultory conversation with Susette Rudell and her
Did Antares wield a malign influence over that walk
to Outwood? The Scorpion's Heart beating redly in
the blue brought little peace to the hearts that beat
along that dusky woodland way. For more than one
the Scorpion had its sting.
That sting ran deepest into Cassilis. Yet he felt a
A Study of Remorse 203
certain degree of forlorn amusement in the situation,
for there is sometimes amusement to be got even out
of one's misfortunes. Never had he dreamt of a
rival such as Herries. So completely had he settled
down in the Corner, had become identified with it
and its interests, that his very recent arrival in Ring-
way had passed out of his mind. He had uncon-
sciously imagined he knew all the familiar friends
who circled round Basset and his adopted daughter.
Fool that he had been to forget that he himself was a
stranger but newly welcomed to their pleasant life.
Here was one who evidently was the friend of years;
old comradeship spoke in the manner of those who
greeted Herries' sudden appearance, and in the easy
way in which Thea walked on with him. Comrade-
ship? — yes, it might very well be that on her part,
and nothing else ; the same airy companionship she
had often given to himself, Cassilis. His thoughts
whirled round this, that, and the other point while
he listened to Emily Darnton, who for reasons of her
own was talking about Herries.
' We all like him so much. He lives at a place
called Wandesleys, twelve miles away. A delightful
old hall with a moat round it, a rusty portcullis that
is never lowered, and a drawbridge that won't draw ;
all so nice! He went to Finland in May. It seems
an interesting country. Have you ever been there,
Dr. CassiHs ? '
' No, never. I am nothing of a traveller.'
' Perhaps,' reflectively, ' there is something Satanic
about travelling. " Going to and fro on the earth "
was an ancient and favourite occupation of the " auld
204 Quality Corner
' I should say that is an excellent reason for good
Christians to do likewise. Why should Satan enjoy
himself and his betters mope ? '
Emily laughed a little.
' I can understand sorrowful people travelling,' she
said, ' but if you are happy, why not stay where you
are ? '
' Does that refer to Mr. Herries ? Did he travel for
sorrow or joy ? '
' Sorrow,' with mock gravity, ' or at least, we all
thought so. We believed he went to Finland because
Thea snubbed him.'
' He appears to have recovered from the snub. Is
Finland a cure for depression of that kind ? '
' I am telling you all the affairs of the Corner ! '
' Do I not also belong to the Corner ? '
' That is why I tell you. Ah, now we are out of
the woods,' in a tone of rehef. ' I do not like them
when they are dark and ghostly and full of poachers.
This field is more human.'
* I seem to be always asking questions. Are not
poachers human ? '
' They are very unpleasant. Perhaps you will say
that is human ? '
' The thought crossed my mind. But I under-
stand your feeling about the woods; a field is not so
uncanny. Also, we can see the lights in our friend
Pugh's house ; signs that we are approaching " haunts
of happy men." '
' I should hardly imagine Mr, Pugh a particularly
' Why not ? He seems so to me. There is no
happiness so great as that of believing your neigh-
A Study of Remorse 205
hours wicked, and being in a position to watch their
doings. The hardened saint and the perfect sinner
are the happy men. It's the bumping up and down
between those extremes that upsets the average
' I suppose so. Yet I see no reason why such oscilla-
tion should exist.'
' Human nature,' responded Cassilis. ' Or what is
the same thing, free-will bestowed upon a handful of
dust. What wonder that the dust develops erratic
action at times.'
After the gloom of the woods, the starlit field seemed
wide and light, the oaten stubble having the effect of
dusky sand, through which the dim little procession
passed along the narrow path. Then the lane, the
high road, and that deepest night of the fir plantation,
with the steel-like gleam of the black water of the
mere beneath the flickering lightning.
Cassilis paused a moment as they crossed the
* I have never seen anything so weird as this end
of the mere,' he said. ' It seems to possess a sinister
fascination, a drawing on as it were, like a magnet.
One thinks of it after one has left it.'
' Yes, I know what you mean. It is like a bad
dream. I told Thea so one day, but she did not agree
with me. She said it had a tragic beauty.'
' So it has. One wants to hear the tragedy. Has
the mere a story ? '
' Now^ that I know. How cheerful Out wood looks ! '
— as they emerged from the plantation shadows and
saw^ the old house above them, brightly lit and with
2o6 Quality Corner
* I thought you people were never coming,' called
Occleston, appearing in the doorway with his wife
and several guests. ' Do you know you are ten min-
utes late ? '
ON this hot night the long windows of the Out-
wood dining-room were open and uncurtained,
so that one looked from the brightness and the lights
on to the terrace and the glimmering mere below, with
its dark line of fringing woods and the dim horizon be-
yond, where the summer lightning flickered on its
background of cloud.
The cool moist air coming up from the lake min-
gled in the room with the fragrance of carnations —
red and blush, white and salmon-coloured — decking
the long table. Thea too wore the same flowers at
her throat, but hers were the old-world deep crim-
son clove-scented ones, looking darker still against the
pale yellow of her gown. She sat opposite, between
Herries and a thin grey-haired man whom Cassilis
did not know. Except the Quality Corner contingent,
most of the guests were strange to him, including a
bland church dignitary whom he presently found to
be the Bishop of Woffendale. His lordship sat next
to Mrs. Occleston, talking much and softly, and ap-
peared to be an adept in the art of not hearing any-
thing he did not wish to hear. So the conversation
swept on without let or hindrance.
' I tell you,' said George Occleston energetically,
replying to some remark of Rudell's, ' man is bom to
be kicked as the sparks fly upward ! '
ao8 Quality Corner
Here the Bishop's face twitched, but he made no
comment, and Occleston continued.
' It's wholesome for him. If every Home and
Foreign Secretary had a sound kick administered to
him on entering office, we should be astonished at the
' I don't doubt that,' said the thin man drily.
' I mean, it would be a good result. A friendly
kicking, you know. This sort of thing : " My dear
fellow, don't make an ass of yourself. Here is a kick
to help you to silence and common sense." There is
too much talking. Listen to the perpetual chatter
everywhere on imperial matters, and contrast it with
the dignified reticence when the nation was con-
tending with war abroad and the mutiny at the
Nore at one and the same time. And why the dif-
ference? Because a man with a joint of roast mut-
ton and a bottle of port under his waistcoat felt in-
clined to hold his tongue and use some genial com-
mon sense. Nowadays he swallows lemonade, puffs
a cigarette, and jabbers like my old aunt's parrot,
and with as much knowledge of his subject as the
bird ! '
* Talking of aunts and parrots,' said a young naval
lieutenant to Emily Darnton, who sat between him
and the Bishop, ' I had an awful time with one just
'With an aunt?'
* No, with a parrot. Oh, and with the aunt too,
in the endo'
And the lieutenant proceeded to relate the tale in
an undertone, while the main current of the conversa-
tion swung on.
A Study of Remorse 209
* George believes that modern Socialism is the result
of tinned meats and teetotal principles,' said Herries,
' So it is,' responded his host. ' Feed a man on
beef and ale and thrash him judiciously when young,
and he will become a reasonable being, loyal and God-
fearing. Give him potted salmon and tea, and un-
limited petting, and he will yell himself hoarse in
Trafalgar Square and live under police supervision.'
' But do you not consider that people think more
than they used to do ? ' said the thin man.
' Oh, thinkers never do anything.'
' That,' observed Cassilis, ' is just as well, for when
thinkers take to doing, it is usually undoing.'
Which remark caused the Bishop to regard him
' Quite so,' assented Occleston, ' they are all alike,
big thinkers and little ones. That fellow in Wofifen-
dale, Hay, who writes books to prove that everything
is something else, and that he himself is considerably
wiser than the Almighty, is own brother to Pugh here,
who would cheerfully destroy the empire to stop me
from preserving the game, supposing that the one de-
pended on the other.'
* Is Mr. Hay an educated man ? ' enquired the
' He is not a cultivated one,' responded Basset. ' I
have seen a dictionary in his house. No cultivated
man owns a dictionary.'
* But suppose you come across such a word as
" amphihexahedral," ' suggested Parfitt.
* Ignore it. The base jargon of science is on a
level with thieves ' slang and lawyers' English ; an
2IO Quality Corner
unpleasant dialect invented by a troublesome body of
men for their own convenience. A cultivated man has
no use for such perversion of sound.'
The Bishop smiled. * I am charmed to make your
acquaintance, Mr. Basset.'
' Most people are, my lord. I shall hope to con-
tinue in your good opinion.'
' Quality Corner is undoubtedly an attractive place,'
the Bishop turned gallantly to Emily. ' As a bachelor,
I am uncertain whether to regret the distance between
it and Woffendale, or to rejoice that I am so far re-
moved from disturbing influences.'
Emily Darnton was looking her best this evening.
She wore black, but it was black of the fluffy and
sparkHng kind. Her eyes were bright, her cheeks
flushed, her chestnut hair shining in the lamplight, as
she replied gaily:
' I fear you would not always approve of us. What
would you say if I confessed to having burnt Blair's
sermons because I was so tired of them ? '
' Don't tell anybody,' responded the Bishop, lower-
ing his voice, ' but I once did worse than that. I
sold the " Whole Duty of Man " for two white mice !
I beg you not to repeat this. Miss Darnton. It would
be such an excellent paragraph for the evening papers.'
Woffendale's prelate had seen more than fifty years
of this curious world, but those years had polished,
not eroded him. As Emily noted the well set-up
figure, the keen features, the shrewd yet not unkindly
glitter of the eye, the bland self-possession of the
manner, with its faint shade of coquetry — if such a
word may be applied to a priest; she mentally de-
cided that the Right Reverend Father was not fatherly ;
A Study of Remorse 2 1 1
that, in short, the Bishop might be regarded as stand-
ing beside other men in the marriage market. Of
course he was not James Cassihs, but the thought
crossed Emily's mind that if Cassilis married Thea,
she — Emily — might find consolation in ruling the
episcopal palace and its master. ' I could never face
a solitary life,' she reflected. ' I should be so bored.'
Then she glanced across the table at Thea and Herries.
If Herries won, Emily did not for a moment doubt
that she herself would ultimately marry Cassilis. He
was just then attending to the wants of his right-hand
neighbour, a pretty woman with fair hair.
' Yes,' Emily heard her say, ' we live quite near to
Mr. Herries. It will be so pleasant when he is mar-
Evidently the fair-haired woman regarded the girl
sitting opposite as the future mistress of that old
moated home called Wandesleys. ' And doubtless she
was right,' thought Cassilis himself, as he made some
vague response. As far as appearance went they
seemed well suited. Herries was a good-looking man,
with a chivalrous gentleness of manner that was very
attractive. At this moment he was speaking to Thea.
' The Outwood carnations are good this year, I
see you remain faithful to the old crimson cloves.'
' My Sops-in-Wine, as Spenser calls them. Yes,
I like them best. Is it not Spenser ? ' smilingly appeal-
ing to Cassilis.
Herries noticed the glance and a swift shadow
crossed his face. Just as he himself had been an un-
expected surprise to Cassilis, so also he now felt the
same shock in discovering a stranger so evidently
occupying the position of friend and comrade at
212 Quality Corner
Number Two, Quality Corner. He mentally called
himself names for having stayed away so long. Then
he reflected that his continual presence would not
have helped him, considering the cause of his absence.
He had gone away as a result of a distinctly unsatis-
factory interview with Thea; then had resolved to
take heart and see what time might bring him. This,
however, did not promise well. He took a quick yet
comprehensive survey of Cassilis and decided that he
was likely to prove a dangerous rival; a rival, too,
who was always on the spot; whereas he — Herries —
lived a dozen miles from Ringway.
' " Bring Coronations and Sops-in-Wine," ' quoted
CassiHs in reply. ' Yes, I think it is Spenser.'
' But why were the flowers called Sops-in-Wine ? *
asked the fair-haired woman.
' Because,' answered Thea, ' their scent and colour
reminded people of the cake floating in wine that was
offered to wedding guests. I like those old flower
names ; Bachelors' Buttons, Fair Maids of France, and
all the rest.'
' So do I,' said Herries. Then he addressed Cassilis.
' Perhaps you are interested in old books ? I have
some curious black-letter things at Wandesleys that
I should be pleased to show you.'
* Thank you. I should like to see them very much.'
Here Occleston's voice broke in, arguing with some-
' . . . And that's what comes of our scientific
knowledge. Scientific engineering wanted to make
that precious Channel Tunnel ! '
' I have always regarded science as another form
of the devil,' observed Basset placidly, ' a popular
A Study of Remorse 213
form, you know. It has poisoned the air and the
water, has filled our towns with men and women
inferior to their fathers, and now it is busy poisoning
our fields and our animals, and has attempted, as
George says, to destroy our great wet ditch around
our island fortress. I trust,' turning to the Bishop,
' you will pardon my allusion to the Enemy of man-
kind? It is perhaps somewhat of a trespass on your
' Not at all, Mr. Basset, not at all,' responded the
Bishop sweetly. ' I am inclined to think that the laity
have greater proprietary rights in those coverts than
' I assure you my only sin is that of encouraging
' So I heard this morning,' drily.
' Ah,' murmured Basset, ' my friend the curate ! '
Then aloud, ' Surely you do not wholly condemn my
sympathy? If I could persuade you to dine with
me, I have little doubt that I should succeed in con-
vincing you of the wisdom of my views.'
' Are your dinners so serious as that ? '
' So beneficial. I never use the word " serious " in
connection with dinner. To do so defeats the object
of the meal. May I hope for your presence at my
' In two months' time, Mr. Basset, I shall be most
happy. I am going away till October. On my return,
if you will invite me to Quality Comer,' here the
Bishop's eyes rested a moment on Emily Damton,
* I shall deem myself fortunate.'
' Basset will be fortunate,' said Occleston from the
other end of the table. * It is high time the church
214 Quality Corner
took him in hand. Of all the sacrilegious old
Pagans ! '
' Gently,' interposed Basset.
' I don't believe a parson ever enters his house
except to quarrel with him/ Occleston went on,
' That is why I do not like them,' said Basset plain-
tively, and the Bishop smiled.
' He has no proper respect for the clergy,' George
persisted. ' I tell him they are one of the main sources
of our supply of heroes. Recipe for a good soldier : —
take a parson father, a quiet pottering parson ; a clever
mother ; and there is your soldier ! '
Whereupon Woffendale's Bishop looked thoughtful.
' If,' continued Occleston, ' we could raise an army
of sons of country parsons and Quakers and tried
soldiers of that stamp, we could sweep the earth ! —
and then go on and clear out the Bottomless Pit.
There's nothing like an out-of-door Puritan ancestry;
let folks scoff as they please. Look at the men of
the Mutiny time ! — the men who saved India for us.
It is astonishing how many of them came from homes
of that sort. Yes, and were thoroughly good fellows
' Ah, yes,' said the Bishop softly, —
' All that chivalry of His,
I am proud to belong to the same nation as they.
As for others who have served their country well, yet
have failed in their private lives, these are our gifted
pagans. Paganism judges a man by his public life
only, leaving him pretty much to his own devices aside
from his duty to his country.'
A Study of Remorse 215
' Then,' remarked Basset, ' I am certainly no pagan,
for I think my private Hfe is better than my public
* I am afraid,' the Bishop responded with extreme
suavity, ' that Christianity demands the whole of a
man's life, both public and private.'
' That is so, I admit. I am aware there is no loop-
hole for escape. But I protest I have the greatest
possible respect for the clergy. That they do not
often come to my house is purely a matter of incom-
patibility. I confess their goodness terrifies me. Is
is possible that my wickedness terrifies them ? '
' I will certainly come and dine with you, Mr. Bas-
set,' said the Bishop with decision.
Supper is a lingering meal, and perhaps the grouse
suppers at Outwood were even more elongated than
most of their kind. But even an Outwood grouse
supper comes to an end. The last tales were told,
the last arguments over, and the departing guests
were standing at the door saying good-night. The
night had not changed. There was the same violet
star-strewn sky, the same cloudy horizon with its
flickering lightning, the same dark mere below.
Only in the south-west Antares no longer blazed.
The Scorpion had dipped with the turning earth, and
' We are late,' said someone.
' No,' said Tony Occleston, ' we are early. It all
depends upon which side of the clock you look at it.'
' Why, what time is it ? ' asked Parfitt, who was
standing within the door.
And Cassilis, on the terrace without, answered un-
2i6 Quality Corner
' Half-past twelve.'
As he spoke, the pale lightning gleamed over his
face, and suddenly, more swiftly than the gleam,
Parfitt remembered the hot night in Bramsall ten years
ago, when Cassilis — younger, despairing — looked out
from a window in the shabby little street, and asked the
question which he himself had just now asked, re-
ceiving the same answer that Cassilis had just now
given. Mark drew a long breath of satisfaction.
' How very curious,' he said, addressing Cassilis,
* that we should repeat the same enquiry and reply
ten years after. I have frequently wondered where
we had met before, but could not recollect till now.
It was in Bramsall. You asked me what time it was
as I passed along the street, and I told you half-past
twelve. The date was the sixth of August.'
' I also recollect the circumstance,' said Cassilis. ' It
is certainly curious.'
' I had an idea you needed help of some sort that
night,' continued the artist, and paused.
' I think I did.'
* So I turned back when I reached the end of the
street, but could not identify the house. There were
so many of the little rat-holes, and all alike. After-
wards I heard some fellow had poisoned himself in
one of them, and I naturally thought it was you, as
your question was an odd one considering that you
were indoors and I out, and intending suicides are
given to queer fancies. But I was mistaken, for here
you stand alive. Curious that all these years I should
have been thinking of you as a dead man — that is,
when I chanced to think of you at all.'
By this time Herries, standing close to both, had
A Study of Remorse aiy
intuitively become aware that Parfitt was busily work-
ing a rack on which Cassilis was stretched ; and with
instinctive generosity he interposed.
' Occleston wishes to speak to you, I believe,' he
said, turning to Mark and glancing into the hall where
their host stood talking. Parfitt understood perfectly
and was inclined to resent the interference, but there
was that about Herries' voice and manner which made
Mark feel rather as though he had received a spiritual
black eye, with the not distant prospect of another.
So reflecting that he had certainly got Cassilis at last,
and could give the rack an extra screw whenever he
pleased, he drew back and joined the group round
Herries turned to Cassilis.
' My place lies over there in a straight line/ he
remarked casually, with a nod across the mere, * only
ten miles off. I shall be happy to welcome you, Dr.
Cassilis, any time you have a spare day. Tony here
will show you the way.'
' Thank you,' replied Cassilis. ' I will come with
' So will I,' Anthony chimed in. ' I have not been
to Wandesleys for ages.' Then he added in Emily
Darnton's ear, ' Good fellow, Herries ! Snubbed Par-
fitt well, didn't he ! '
' Yes, but I did not quite hear what Mr. Parfitt
was saying.' This in a low voice as she and Tony
walked down the drive.
' Oh, Cassilis seems to have been in Bramsall ten
years ago, and hard-up. I call it downright low to
remind a fellow of his poverty.'
Herries' interpretation of Parfitt's observations was
!2i8 Quality Corner
not so simple. He thought there certainly was some-
thing odd about that night ten years ago, not be-
cause Parfitt's manner hinted it, but because his
keener perceptions and his sympathy with Cassilis
told him so. Kindly feeling impelled him to give the
invitation. He was quite willing to receive his rival
at his house. There Cassilis would at least be well
away from Quality Corner.
During the brief scene, Thea had arrived at the
same conclusion as Tony Occleston. Also, she had
never liked Herries so well as when his easy inter-
position freed Cassilis from his tormentor. But her
grateful glance did not cheer the deliverer's breast.
It revealed too much interest in the victim. Yet Her-
ries contrived to be Thea's companion when — a few
minutes later — the Quality Corner people started on
their return journey.
* I did not know you were coming with us,' she
observed as they crossed the bridge in the fir planta-
' Only to the woods. I am riding home to-night.'
' Are you ? I wish I were riding too. Not home,
but anywhere. In this blue darkness, with the light-
ning and the stars, one might meet all the people of
whom one has ever heard.'
Herries was not, like Cassilis, able to follow the
most erratic swallow-flights of thought, but he under-
stood the restless mood that sent them winging; and
therefore proceeded to say something which he hoped
would be pleasant.
' It would probably be better than meeting some
of the people one sees. Parfitt, for instance, is a dis-
A Study of Remorse -2 19
agreeable fellow. How long does he mean to stay in
Quality Corner ? '
' I do not know. You are very good.'
' Am I ? ' The praise did not appear to give any
great satisfaction, for Herries' tone was melancholy.
' You seem to be able to manage Mr. Parfitt. I was
' Oh, that is not difficult.' He paused ; then re-
sumed : * I am good, and I can manage Parfitt. I sup-
pose I must be content with that.'
' It is high praise. Nobody has hitherto succeeded
in managing Mr. Parfitt.'
' I will come over to Quality Corner and keep him
' Yes, do,' said Thea absently. She was thinking
of that scene at the door of Outwood, and was not
pleased. True, Cassilis had replied with the utmost
calmness, had certainly held his ground ; but Parfitt
had not been quelled, had not retreated one inch.
It was Herries who had compelled him to retire.
Now no woman likes to see the man for whom she
has a preference unable effectually to control another
man. In her compassion there was a distinct tinge
of disappointment, and her anger against Parfitt rose
the more vehemently by reason of that disappoint-
ment. If Herries had hoped for encouragement when
he spoke of coming to Quality Corner, he understood
well enough by her manner of acquiescence that she
was indift"erent to his visit except as it might aid
Cassilis ; and they walked on for a few minutes in
silence. Then the woods were reached and Herries
220 Quality Corner
' Good-night,' he said.
' Oh, I had forgotten you were not coming any
farther with us. Good-night ! ' holding out her hand.
Herries held it a moment.
' Do not let Parfitt annoy you. He is a bird of
passage and will soon be gone. Here are the others,'
as several dusky figures approached.
' What ? Going, Herries ? ' said Basset, who was
the foremost. ' Come and dine with us next week.
Any day will do.'
And in the general leave-taking, Thea and Cassilis
strolled on into the olive gloom of the woods.
Herries sighed as he strode back along the field-
path, but he knew right well that his only chance lay
in steady patience. Then he thought of Parfitt and
frowned. What was the difficulty about that night
in Bramsall? There had been an ugly look on the
artist's face. Herries had interfered, and, given the
chance, would do so again, but he rather wished he
knew the story, if there was a story. Perhaps it was
nothing much, yet Basset really ought to be more
careful how he admitted strangers to his house on
intimate terms. At this point Herries pulled himself
up, for, recalling Cassilis as he had seen him to-night,
he felt the attraction that the wanderer had for most
of his fellow-men. Besides, it suddenly occurred to
Herries that Parfitt might also be a rival, and this
idea made him very angry indeed. Which was un-
reasonable, as certainly Mark would be considered
a more eligible suitor than the other. He had made
himself a name and position, whereas Cassilis had
neither. But Herries was observant, as became a good
A Study of Remorse 221
sportsman. He accurately summed up Parfitt as * a
cold-blooded brute/ and pondered wrathfully over the
lamentable condition of Quality Corner till he reached
Outwood again. There he bade good-night to Occles-
ton and his wife, mounted his horse, and rode away
into the night.
WHEN is one's sense of enjoyment the strongest?
Is it when one sees one's string of jewels drop-
ping into the abyss? — pleasures, hopes, dreams, all
glittering for a moment ere they vanish. As the fern-
scented darkness of the woods closed round Thea and
himself, Cassilis felt that hour at least was his. All
else had gone or was going; all his fairy jewels
slipping from his grasp; his rainbow fading; his life
lit only by that flickering lightning, that Handwriting
on the Wall that had twice revealed him to his enemy ;
ten years ago in the dingy street, and now again on
the terrace at Outwood. Well, here were the woods,
sombre aisles of dusky leafage, and Thea, a dim
figure — a clear voice in the dewy gloom ; as she was
that evening on the hillside.
' We have the recipe of fern-seed, we walk invisible,'
he quoted jestingly after a minute's silence.
' Are you pining for a moon ? Or can you appreciate
the starlight ? '
' Is it starlight ? I thought it was magic. This is a
fairy night. Let us walk on to the end of the world
and look over.'
Thea laughed softly. ' I should not care to look
over. I am content with this world.'
' So am I — in these woods. Let us tell each other
fairy-tales. Who is it that speaks of his life as " that
Dark Fairy-tale " ? '
A Study of Remorse 223
* I know, but I forget.'
* Well,' Cassilis paused a moment. Should he say
anything respecting Parfitt's recognition of him? To
what end? Yet he felt reluctant to keep silence when
Thea had stood by him on the terrace, hearing and
seeinng Mark's words and manner and Herries' inter-
position. To say nothing seemed to admit Parfitt's
insolence as deserved. Yet to say all would un-
doubtedly be to condemn himself utterly, for who
would believe? Still poor human nature clamoured
to justify itself, to place itself favourably by saying a
little — only a little. And here was Cassilis his own
old self, the hesitating self that had wrecked him. A
stronger man would either have kept silence or have
' I was two years in Bramsall,' he said, ' and while
there I fell into great poverty.'
' I am sorry,' and her voice partook of the dewy
softness of the night.
' Thank you. But there are worse things even than
poverty, though not many. I found a friend, who
rescued me. Then I lost him — by death. I caught
fever about that time. It was then that, standing one
night at the open window, I asked the time of a passer-
by. The stranger was Parfitt. It was a foolish ques-
tion ; I don't know why I asked it. Naturally he
thought it curious.'
' I do not see that it was or is any concern of Mr.
' Doubtless he expects an explanation. And I have
none to give.'
' Is not Mr. Parfitt being made of too much im-
portance ? Why not ignore him ? '
224 Quality Corner
' I will. This is the end of my fairy-tale.'
' It is too short. You have brought in the Ogre
and disposed of him ; but where is the rest of the
story ? '
' Not lived yet. You see, this is a real fairy-tale.'
Then he thought of the countless human hves, each
one a different story, yet all finished by the same hand ;
that of the Rider on the Pale Horse.
' Real fairy-tales always end happily,' said Thea.
' Then I shall hope mine will.' But he knew it would
There was a subtle difference in the woodland.
At ten o'clock there had been a sense of drowsy life;
nothing was slumbering, only sinking into slumber;
and the sunburnt open spaces gave up the dry curious
odour of scorched grass and earth. Now, past mid-
night, that hot scent of summer was drowned in dew ;
the damp air redolent of moss and fern, and all the
trees were sleeping. So profound was the slumber of
the woods that the little sounds were well-nigh hushed ;
the tide of life was at the ebb.
The two walked on, each pondering the Dark Fairy-
tale. Thea, with a gentle pity, thinking that CassiHs
was unduly sensitive on the subject of his poverty.
CassiHs himself wondering what respite fate would
give him. And now and then the perfume of Thea's
carnations floated round them, fugitive breaths of
clove fragrance in the dewiness. Presently she spoke :
* Do the midnight woods seem unreal to you ? '
' No, not unreal. A different reality.'
' Yes, that is it. Perhaps when we say unreal we
only mean unusual. It is our ignorance that speaks.
Why should we not be more familiar with these differ-
A Study of Remorse 225
ing realities, these unusual moods of the woods? We
seem to neglect some of the loveliest aspects of the
' Most of us do. But I cannot imagine anyone being
more familiar with these woods than you are.'
' One never really knows them,' she replied. ' They
change hourly. Can you tell where you are? We are
passing the chestnut.'
' Your tree of knowledge ? We do not seem to
be in an open space.'
' We are on the other side of the tree.' She stopped
a moment, then put a cool fan-shaped leaf into Cas-
silis's hand. ' Feel, that is chestnut.'
' So it is. Are there more books hidden in its
trunk ? '
' Not to-night. Now you can see the hollow on the
They emerged from deepest shadow into starlight
once more, and Cassilis looked at the silver-grey un-
dulating ground sloping away downward, then dimly
rising beyond. A murmur of voices reached them as
again they passed into shadow.
' The others are walking more quickly,' said Thea,
turning her head to look back, though no one was to
be seen. ' Probably they are quarrelling. People never
walk quickly on summer nights unless they are quar-
relling. As for Emily and Tony, they seem to have
' They were in front of us,' said Cassilis.
' Perhaps they have been quarrelling too, and have
therefore reached home already/ Thea suggested with
that rippling laugh of hers.
Cassilis laughed too. ' Quarrelling is so simple and
226 Quality Corner
easy,' he said, ' so thoroughly within the scope of every-
body; and moreover, admits of such infinite variety,
that it is really admirably adapted for the general oc-
cupation of mankind.'
' And agreement ? '
' That demands other and rarer qualities.'
' Does not someone say that there are times when
peace belongs to Satan, but that the fight is God's ? '
* Ah, fighting is another matter. It is not quar-
relling. To fight well needs every good quality that
human nature can possess. The reason people quarrel
so much is because they are devoid of the necessary
gifts for fighting. No good fighter wastes his strength
on trivial squabbles.'
' Evidently there are very few good fighters in the
world,' said Thea musingly. After a moment or two
she asked, ' What do you think of the Bishop ? '
* I liked him. He seemed to have " good gifts and
' He will be a new element in Quality Corner,' Thea
continued. ' I am always interested when the Corner
gains a new element.'
Thus talking in desultory fashion, they drifted on
till the lapis-lazuli gloom of the sleeping woods gave
place to the pale starHt road, so silent now in the
heart of the night. Even the very dust seemed to lie
closer, and the hedge-shadows were thicker, more
velvety. The night, too, along the open road was
not so protective; more impish, less feminine as it
were; those velvet hedge-shadows less alluring, more
menacing than the woodland glooms ; no gracious
soft-armed Dryads taking form and shape, but tricky
gnomes, grotesque and mocking. The good hour in
A Study of Remorse 227
the woods was over. Yonder at the bottom of the
hill were the faint lights of Quality Corner, and Cas-
silis realised afresh how ominously had begun the new
chapter of his Dark Fairy-tale.
Then, presently, he and his companion turned into
the Corner, where Emily Darnton and Tony Occleston
were waiting; and their friendliness and Basset's
warmed his heart anew. Cassilis was glad too that the
Rudells and Parfitt passed on to Number Four without
stopping. Let the Dark Fairy-tale rest to-night. He
had read enough.
THE day following the Grouse Supper was Sun-
day ; hot and blue, with a west wind blowing
softly — a wind that had come up from the sea with the
dawn. It blew the sound of the church bells all over
the town, and Quality Corner dressed itself and walked
to church. Cassilis, from his dining-room window,
watched them go. Basset, Thea, Emily Darnton;
followed by Rudell, his wife, and Mark Parfitt ; finally,
Tony Occleston overtaking the first three with a rush.
Then the sound of the bells and the sound of passing
feet alike ceased, and the wind alone fluttered the
Cassilis had two or three patients to see, and he took
the longest road to each, trying to walk off the turmoil
of feeling that still surged within him. The green
peace of this place ; and the mockery of it ! He felt
inclined to laugh as he recalled the rest it promised.
Rest ? — why from that first evening when he saw Par-
fitt again after ten years he had been in spirit running
like any poor hunted beast. He could look back on all
the run ; from the start and the quickening of the pace,
to the breathless rush now. He slightly wondered
what would be Parfitt's next attack. Then he told
himself he did not care. Whatever it was, he was sure
to go down before it.
One of his patients lived below the church, and on
his way Cassilis turned into the churchyard, intending
A Study of Remorse 0,29
io cross it and descend into the vale by the steps. In
the sunny stillness the deep tones of the organ floated
out. The ' Te Deum ' was being sung, and he paused
for a moment to listen. Then, to his surprise, he saw
that Thea Basset was sitting on the wooden bench
round the old yew-tree by the southern porch. She
turned her head and greeted him with a little smihng
nod as he advanced.
' Did you find the church too warm ? ' he asked.
* I have not been in it,' she replied.
' But I thought I saw you go this morning.'
* Certainly. I escorted Daddy and Emily to the west
door, and then retired hither.'
' But why ? ' in astonishment.
She laughed. ' You are very inquisitive. Sit down
and I will tell you.'
Cassilis sat down very willingly.
' Now listen,' said she ; and there followed a silence
of some minutes, during which the ' Te Deum ' seemed
to swing out of the church with the tramp of an army.
Let us reverently thank Heaven that our Christian
hymns and creeds were composed in martial ages.
They have the ring of steel ; the cry of life and death ;
the passion of supplication and praise. Our modem
prayers smack of the counter, and have precisely the
same grace and fervour — that is, none.
Sitting thus, a sense of remoteness stole over Cassilis,
as on St. John's Day, when he had come with Thea in
the early morning. It was good to be here. Once
more he was the Monk Felix ; listening, unconscious
The closing chords ceased, and the only sound was
the rustle of the trees in the warm wind.
230 Quality Corner
' I am listening,' said Cassilis enquiringly.
* Did you hear the " Te Deum " ? ' she asked.
' Yes ; but you said you would explain your reason
for sitting here.'
' That/ with a wave of her hand, ' is a part of it.
Occasionally I give myself this luxury of sitting out-
side the church on Sunday. One feels like the spirits
on the green hillside in Dante. You read Dante? '
' Long ago I read him.'
' Then you will remember those spirits who are
neither in Heaven nor Hell, not even in Purgatory;
but are only waiting, listening to chants of angels, and
talking of their own earthly life. Now, to sit here in
this warm greenness and hear the service going on
always reminds me of that hillside. Do you see the
' I see it perfectly. It is a kind of playing at being
The organ notes rolled out from the church again.
' There is the " Jubilate," ' said Thea, looking dream-
ily over the valley lying below in the August sunshine ;
and another listening silence succeeded. The ' Jubi-
late ' died away and the Creed followed, ringing clearly
over the churchyard. If ever words were beaten into
steel by force of human feeling, those of the Creed
were so beaten. It is a challenge to the world, a sword
drawn in the world's face. One can hardly refrain
from shouting it. Then the voices sank to the murmur
of prayer, and still Cassilis and Thea sat silent.
' Truly she was right,' he thought. Here was the
angel-guarded resting-place of grass and flowers, with
blowing, scented winds ; and here he sat waiting with
A Study of Remorse 231
Hell behind him. What lay before him he could not
tell; but assuredly not Paradise. The words rose to
' Most of those waiting spirits are tardy penitents,
are they not ? They have not repented till the hour of
death. I am recalling the passage. They wait to pass
to Purgatory, and thence to Paradise; their bliss is
certain, though delayed ; they speak serenely of their
past misdeeds, and are happy. It is a singular kind of
* In what way is it singular ? '
' That they should consider their repentance obliter-
ates those misdeeds.'
* And does it not ? '
* Very rarely. It is impossible that their wrong-
doing should not have affected others. Then what
about those others ? Are they also happy, or have their
lives been spoilt? If the latter, how is it that the
spoilers feel no remorse — are serene and happy ? '
* The wrong-doing may have turned out well for
those injured,' said Thea.
* Sometimes ; but not in the majority of cases. We
can see that for ourselves all round us. Repentance is
good, doubtless, for the individual ; but it seems to be
regarded as restitution — reparation — which it is not,
and cannot be. Suppose a man fired a cannon-ball
down a crowded street. He might repent with the
utmost sincerity, but his repentance would neither heal
the maimed nor restore the dead. Moreover, his re-
pentance would not check the course of the ball. It
would go on maiming and destroying till its initial ve-
locity was exhausted. No repenting can wipe out the
232 Quality Corner
past. A man may throw away the thirty pieces, and
even hang himself; but his treachery remains and
grows and bears its fruit.'
Cassilis paused a moment. He was looking over the
valley, and speaking with a quiet intensity. The girl
beside him could not know along what sombre winding
ways of painful thought he trod ; but her hstening
sympathetic presence soothed him. He resumed :
' And remorse is the fitting and inevitable punish-
ment, the private hell which each wrong-doer makes
for himself, and which will assuredly be his whether
he reaches Paradise or not. But it is a better hell than
the other, for remorse is true repentance.'
* Then what becomes of Paradise ? '
* It remains Paradise,' he said, turning to her with a
sudden smile. ' It is rest and repentance, though not
forgetfulness. I merely protested against the remark-
able cheerfulness displayed by the destroyers of others'
peace. Of course Dante is right. That is the usual
attitude of repentant sinners. They wish to forget,
and they generally do.'
Another silence. Then Thea spoke :
' Surely in Paradise remorse would fade in time, as
the sunshine whitens all things.'
' In long ages it might be so,' with another smile.
* The idea gives hope certainly.'
* I can hardly believe the pain of remorse should last
' Except as a remembered pain perhaps. For the
Christian there is no Lethe.'
' I do not think one would desire Lethe ? '
Again the silence — the silence which is the surest
test of comradeship. The wind blew showers of poppy
A Study of Remorse i^^
petals over the low wall from the cottagers' gardens
just without — wonderful petals, lavender and crimson,
scarlet, pale violet and rose ; strewing the grass and the
mossy stones. Fragrance of sun-warmed stocks, too,
came on the wind with the poppy petals.
Cassilis spoke as though there had been no pause in
' You are right,' he said with shining eyes, ' one
would not desire Lethe. You may even be right re-
specting the gradual fading of remorse as a stain fades.
Perhaps if I sat here long enough I might agree with
you in all things.'
' That would be a pity,' she replied gravely. ' A
little variety is better.'
* So it is,' he agreed. ' People often forget that,
don't they? — and develop a craze for moulding others;
destroying the very individuality that attracts them.
Pulling off the butterfly's wings and then reproaching
the poor thing for crawling.'
Cassilis paused again, and the wind blew more poppy
petals over the wall.
' There is Dante's glow of colour on the grass,' he
said, looking at the scarlet and violet flecks. ' We
should grow very wise if we stayed long on this hill-
side, apart from the world, and looking down on life
as we look down on the valley. But the insistent
cricket-calls of daily existence summon us. One must
always leave everything for them. We let even the
dinner-bell draw us from Heaven — perhaps the only
Heaven we shall ever have. Even this hillside is but
a brief resting-place. Do you hear the sermon ending ?
Not my sermon, but the one in there,' glancing towards
234 Quality Corner
* Yes.' She leant back against the tree-trunk and
looked up into the yew branches, dark beneath the
jewel-blue. ' I think you are mistaken in objecting to
the cricket-calls. They prevent weariness of peace.
You would grow tired of the hillside if you were not
' No, I should not.'
' No, I think the capacity for growing tired of things
and people was somehow left out of my composition.
I do not remember ever wearying of anything that has
seemed pleasant to me.'
Cassilis rose as he spoke. He would not stay till the
worshippers came out of church. The fragrant peace
of that summer morning should remain unbroken in
' I am obeying a cricket-call now,' he continued. ' I
have a patient to see down in the vale.'
' Then good-bye till this evening,' she replied, and
watched him going away over the blowing poppy-
strewn grass to the gap in the wall so considerately
left by the old builders, that the wayfarer might take
the shortest cut to the steep steps down the hillside.
At the gap Cassilis turned and looked back at the
graceful figure sitting on the bench beneath the yew.
Seeing him turn, Thea smiled and waved her hand
with a slight outward gesture that struck him like a
remembered stab. Just so had his dead friend often
bidden him farewell. He hesitated a moment, taking
off his hat and standing bareheaded in the sunshine,
reluctant to leave that place of silent sunny rest. The
very gesture that startled, yet drew him. It had so
strange and yet so familiar a charm. But he would
A Study of Remorse a^S
not — could not go back to mingle with the crowd that
in another minute would stream out of the old porch.
He would remember that hillside only as the resting-
place of Dante's vision ; a place of grass and flowers,
with sound of psalms and blowing winds ; and with
not only peace but companionship. So he went away
down the worn old steps to the valley below.
ON Sunday afternoon Quality Corner was usually
wrapped in slumber. At Number Two Basset
dozed peacefully in his arm-chair by the wood fire, his
fingers resting on a favourite book, and the summer
wind lifting his white hair. Outside on the verandah,
Thea and Emily were discussing last night's supper.
' I cannot decide,' said Emily, ' whether I enjoyed
myself amazingly or not at all.'
Thea laughed. ' Why decide ? Make up your mind
that you enjoyed yourself tolerably well.'
' I didn't. I was either at the zenith or the nadir.
Perhaps I was alternately at one or the other.' A
pause. Then Emily added, ' Thea, I think I shall marry
into the church.'
' What is your reason ? I mean, who is your rea-
' I told you I needed employment. There is lots of
employment in the church.'
' I should think looking after one man quite employ-
' If one is in love with him. But nobody falls in love
with a clergyman ; it would not be proper. To marry
into the church is to choose a vocation. What are you
laughing at ? '
' Really I cannot follow the workings of your mind.'
' No wonder ! I can hardly follow them myself.'
' But why marry if you are not in love? '
A Study of Remorse 237
* Have I not told you the reason ? For employment.'
* Better wait and see if you can meet the right man.'
' Oh, I am not in a hurry. I am merely turning over
the idea in my mind. But how seldom one meets the
right man ! If one cannot get wine, one must be con-
tent with water.'
' I do not see the necessity. Wherefore this sudden
fancy for the church? It appears to date from last
night. Also, I should rather describe the Bishop as
one of those teetotal beverages which are considerably
stronger than water.'
' I am not sure that I was thinking of the Bishop
when I said that.'
* Of whom were you thinking? '
' Of no one. Of almost everyone. You see, I am
looking for a husband, you expect a husband to look
for you. Yes, the longer I reflect, the more impossible
it becomes to decide whether I enjoyed the supper or
not! Did I ever tell you that when I was in Devon
with my aunt a few years ago, I met a doctor who,
before we left, wrote me a note which may or may not
have been a proposal. I could not tell, for it was
written in the usual medical hieroglyphics. So I re-
plied with vague sweetness that I was going home. I
did not dare to say more. I could only read his signa-
ture. The rest looked like " an ounce of quinine to
be taken every ten minutes," or something of that sort.'
' A chemist would have read it for you, a young sym-
' So he would ! What a truly gorgeous idea ! I
wish I had thought of it. Who knows what I may
have missed ? '
' Is it too late ? '
238 Quality Corner
' Much too late : I have forgotten his name.'
The conversation flowed on ; the summer wind
ruffled the leaves, making flickering shadows on the
garden paths ; and within Basset still slept in his chair.
Presently he was aroused by the entrance of Rudell.
' Ah, sit down,' said Basset, ' and I will get up a
bottle of Burgundy.'
' No, thanks. Look here, there is something queer
' Nonsense ! '
' I am afraid there is. You must really listen.'
' Well, what is it ? Did he " keep company with the
wild Prince and Polns " ? '
'It is a serious matter,' said Rudell impatiently.
' I am not fond of my brother-in-law, as you know,
but look at this drawing of his, and observe its date.'
And Rudell spread out on a table at Basset's elbow,
the charcoal drawing that Parfitt had made ten years
before. Basset took it up.
' Is it intended for Cassilis ? '
' It is Cassihs. Done ten years ago in Bramsall.
Parfitt saw him at a window of a house in Mill Street
at half -past twelve that night ; ' and Rudell related the
' What concern is this of ours ? ' Basset asked,
laying down the drawing.
' Of ours ? Why, I want the matter cleared up. I
want to know what Cassilis was doing there, and
whether he was implicated in poor Thorold's death.'
' My dear Rudell,' said Basset gravely, after a mo-
ment's silence, ' let us not permit ourselves to suspect a
mutual friend of a crime when we have not the slightest
reason to suppose that a crime was committed.'
A Study of Remorse 239
' I have long thought that Thorold was poisoned by
somebody who wished to get hold of that invention of
his, whatever it is. You will remember it vanished,
and we had no proof that it ever existed, save in his
mind, he mentioned it so vaguely. Pity he did not
speak of it more freely to us. We might then have
been able to trace it. Anyway, it must have been a fail-
ure, since Cassilis is poor. That is some satisfaction.'
' To speak of a man like Cassilis in connection with
suspicions such as these is really — excuse me, Rudell —
monstrous ! '
' Any man is capable of anything,' said Rudell the
' Not so. Besides, I don't care what he is capable
of. I like him, and that is enough.'
' I like him too, yet it is not enough,'
' It should be. I do not know when I have met any-
one so companionable, not since we lost poor Thorold.
Of course Cassilis has not Thorold's sunny brilliancy.
He is graver, saddened somehow, and without ambi-
' There you are wrong. Basset. A man with that
head and face, that clear incisive voice, and that
quietude of manner, is one who means or has meant to
do something big.'
' If you were right, he would not be contentedly
settling down here.'
' I am not sure of that. This may be his St. Helena,
I wish to trace his Waterloo. He has dropped here
from the clouds, so to speak.'
' To be a stranger is not a crime.'
' We know nothing about him. He does not seem
to have any relations.'
240 Quality Corner
* For that most people would be disposed to envy
' Oh, I grant that. But he must have some. Why
not speak of them? If I have a brute of an uncle, I
say I've a brute of an uncle. It is respectable to have
relations, even if they do chance to be own brothers to
the Gadarene swine.'
' I do not see that a man is obliged to speak of his
' But I do. They ought to be there. Good, bad, or
indifferent, they ought to be in evidence.'
' You are influenced by Parfitt. Probably he is a
liar, he looks like one.'
' He does,' Rudell admitted ; ' but what motive can
he have for lying ? '
' A thousand motives,' replied Basset. ' Instinctive
antagonism for one thing. A pleasure in making mis-
chief for another. That is the form which love of
power takes in mean natures. They can make mischief
and they do, and the subsequent racket gratifies them
because they are the authors of it. They may not be
able to colour a stained glass window, but they can
heave a stone through it, and the smashing gives a
sense of power — a perverted sense, of course.'
' Still, there is some truth in Parfitt 's story, for he
tells me he spoke of it to Cassilis last night as they
were leaving Outwood, and Cassilis acknowledged he
was in Bramsall ten years ago.'
* Why should the matter have been mentioned last
night ? '
' Because it was only then that Parfitt recollected
where he had seen Cassilis. He says that next day he
casually heard of a suicide in that street, and supposed
A Study of Remorse 241
Cassilis was the man. Of course he means Thorold's
death, but either he did not hear the name or has for-
gotten it, so he does not connect the rumour with Thea.'
' Your wife will enlighten him.'
' She only knows poor Thorold died in Bramsall, she
is not aware of the circumstances. Therefore it is
hardly probable that she will perceive any link between
our loss and her brother's memory. Though,' added
Rudell, ' I myself see no reason for concealment.'
Basset was silent for some minutes.
' I think,' he said at last, ' that you are a little sur-
prised by my reluctance to reopen the question of
Thorold's death. I admit I am most reluctant. I pre-
fer to believe it accidental. Your vague suspicions are
merely the result of your mind having been turned
upon the subject by hearing of Mrs. Heald, or rather
' I mean to question that woman,' said Rudell dog-
gedly, ' and I shall find that Cassilis was the missing
lodger who was supposed to have left long before. No
doubt he made it worth her while to tell that tale at the
inquest. She looked a wretched creature, worn and
haggard, one who would be glad to say anything for a
' I shall be sorry if you trouble her, Rudell. I be-
lieve I said so yesterday when you were speaking of
' Things have taken a more serious turn. I feel
bound to ask a few questions.'
' Well, she is now in WoflFendale. When she and
Gresty are married and she returns to the farm, I hope
you will pause and consider a little before you give the
old sorrow new life.'
242 Quality Corner
' My dear Basset, setting aside the duty which I
think we owe to poor Thorold, there is another con-
sideration which does not seem to occur to you. Cas-
silHs undoubtedly admires Thea. Suppose she were to
marry him ? '
Basset glanced towards the verandah.
* Take care she does not hear you. She is out there
with Emily. Well, I hardly think the contingency prob-
able. I consider she is more hkely to marry Herries,
though she has refused him. Neither would be ex-
actly the man for her. I may say, however, that per-
sonally I should offer no objection to Cassilis, though
I should then make enquiries concerning his family.
As for the suspicion you are entertaining, it seems to
me so preposterous that I cannot regard it seriously.'
' The thing is not impossible. You see, Basset, you
have adopted another man's daughter, and that makes
complications. I have never approved of her being
called by your name instead of her own.'
' She is not called by it. I wished the name to be
' And of course everyone calls her Basset. In all
probability Cassilis has never heard her name, unless
he happened to notice Herries speaking to her. He is
the only one who never forgets she is Thorold.'
' What can it possibly matter ? '
' I mean, the name might have acted as a warning
to Cassilis to ascertain who she was before paying her
any particular attentions. The more I turn things over
in my mind the more ominous they seem. If Cassilis
was the other lodger, his presence would account for
the prussic acid which has always puzzled me, as
A Study of Remorse 243
Thorold had no reason for getting it. I am resolved
to sift the matter to the bottom. His very silence about
his past is suspicious.'
' No,' said Basset, ' your conjectures are of the wild-
est. Look at them calmly. Because a man happens
to be at the same time in the same town in which we
lose a friend, you imagine he must of necessity be con-
cerned in that friend's death.'
' He owns to being in the same street on the same
' What of that ? It amounts to nothing, to less than
nothing. In short, it is Parfitt's doing, and I feel sur-
prised that you should give the fancy a moment's
' How came that prussic acid in Thorold's room ? It
is not a common poison. But given a doctor in the
house, its presence is at once explained.'
' Prejudice — cruel prejudice,' was Basset's reply.
* Cassilis is coming to dine with us to-day and I shall be
delighted to see him. It must be nearly dinner-time
now. Six on Sunday, you know.'
' For sheer obstinacy. Basset, I do not know your
* Call it firmness. That sounds better. Ah, Cassilis,
I was just telling Rudell I expected you.'
For once Rudell was taken aback. He and Basset
had been too busy talking to notice the opening of the
door, and Cassilis was always so swift and noiseless in
his movements, that almost before they realised his
presence he was standing by them — and on the table
lay his own portrait.
He saw and recognised it at once, saw also the place
244 Quality Corner
and date written on one corner, and seeing, knew that
his having been in Bramsall that night was the subject
' I was not aware,' he said, glancing at the drawing,
* that Mr. Parfitt had done me the honour of making a
sketch of me.'
The situation was beyond Rudell, but Basset rose
* Perhaps I may be excused saying that I have never
admired Mr. Parfitt's talent. It is one which I con-
sider might with advantage have remained wrapped in
* Say anything you please,' replied Rudell briskly,
getting up. ' I don't think much of it myself.'
' Of what ? ' The questioner was Emily Darnton.
She and Thea were coming in from the verandah.
' Oh, that ! ' perceiving the drawing. ' Susette showed
it to me a week or two ago and I did not recognise any
' Perhaps the artist has touched it up since,' Thea
suggested, smiling at Cassilis.
' I think that is extremely probable,' observed Basset.
Rudell rolled up the drawing.
' I will tell him all opinions are adverse,' he said.
* Evidently his gift is not portraiture. Good-bye. See
you again presently.'
As Rudell departed, Tony Occleston arrived, and
his presence was welcome, giving a different direction
to the general conversation and dispersing the vague
discomfort created by Parfitt's sketch. Over Cassilis
himself, however, the glamour of the morning yet lin-
gered, the spell of the green hillside where the tumult
of life had seemed hushed for a little space; and so
A Study of Remorse 245
complete was the spell that even that portrait upon
Basset's table had not — as yet — stirred his spirit to
pain. That would come later. So he enjoyed himself,
and Thea, seeing his mood, echoed it, talking with soft
sparkle of merriment, perhaps the brighter for the un-
derlying pity and the anger roused by Parfitt's conduct.
The Dark Fairy-tale dwelt in her mind, and in the
drawing that Rudell carried away she intuitively per-
ceived another page of that tale, though written in a
character she could not decipher.
Basset also, resolved that Cassilis should not im-
agine him influenced by the incident of the portrait,
talked his best and cheeriest, helped by Tony Occles-
ton's high spirits. Emily Darnton was the one who
felt most difficulty in ignoring the shadow of the un-
known past. Her curiosity respecting it was greater
than Thea's because her comprehension of Cassilis was
less, and therefore she was the more inclined both to
analyse and to question him. But her occasional lapses
into puzzled thoughtfulness were few and unnoticed.
The time passed lightly — easily — as it invariably did in
Number Two, Quality Corner.
Later, when standing alone with Basset for a mo-
ment on the doorstep, Cassilis spoke of the drawing.
* I feel,' he said, ' that I owe you an explanation.
But I can give none. It is true that I was in Bramsall,
in that street, on that night ; and I asked the time of
Mr. Parfitt as he passed. I had no particular reason
for asking the time. I was much troubled, and spoke
vaguely — unthinkingly — as men do when flung out of
their ordinary grooves of thought. More than this I
do not wish to say.'
' My dear Cassilis, I desire no explanation. A friend-
246 Quality Corner
ship is slight indeed if, like a house of cards, a stran-
ger's breath can blow it down. Parfitt is a fool, and I
should be another if I heeded him.'
' You are most generous.'
' Not so. But I hope I am reasonable. And I de-
cidedly object to the neighbourliness of the Comer
being disturbed by a stranger who will soon be gone
from among us — the sooner the better. Forget him,
as I do. Good-night ! '
FOR a time life flowed on much as usual in Quality
Corner. The August heat gave place to August
rain — stormy showers that swept along the ground,
pursued by the swift wind.
On these wild grey days Basset increased his fires
and his guests ; Cassilis, Emily Damton, and Tony
Occleston dining at Number Two about four evenings
a week, together with other contingents from Outwood
and Woffendale. Herries too came over once or twice,
and seemed fairly content with his reception. He re-
newed his invitation to Cassilis with marked friendli-
ness, so that the latter went to Wandesleys, staying the
night, when he and his host sat and talked amicably
over a blazing fire while the rain beat on the old mull-
ioned windows. He liked Herries ; it w^as something
to grasp another friendly hand. At that time Cassilis
was possessed by a feverish desire to throw himself as
much into the life of the Comer as possible, living as it
were wholly in each hour, resolutely ignoring both past
During these days Number Four was the one house-
hold in the Corner not entirely at ease. It w-as not un-
happy, for no household can be considered unhappy
that is concocting mischief. But its calm was ruffled.
Rudell, though determined to question June Heald
respecting her missing lodger, yet felt that his action
in the matter would be disapproved by Basset. On
248 Quality Corner
the other hand, Parfitt was annoyed by his brother-in-
law's silence; while Mrs. Rudell, keeping the peace
between the two, felt thoroughly angry with everyone
concerned — most of all with Thea, who, as the primary
cause of Parfitt's resolve to produce the drawing and
tell his tale, was of course to blame for everything.
* Like the man who drew his bow at a venture, I
have evidently made a lucky shot,' Mark observed one
day to his sister, ' only I am not allowed to know the
full extent of my achievement. I'm glad I shall soon
be off to town. I could not stand much more of this.
But I should like to see the result of my shot before I
' I do not believe you will,' replied Susette irritably.
* Mr. Basset is quite offended that any one should
dream of finding fault with Dr. Cassilis, nobody pays
any attention to what you say, and the sole result is
that the Corner is disagreeable to me.'
Mark glanced at her and smiled. ' You were as
desirous as I that my story should be told.'
' Yes, but I thought the effect would be different.*
' If we could always be sure of the effect of our
actions life would lose its unexpectedness, and would
cease to be as amusing as it is.'
' Do you find it amusing ? '
* Certainly. Everything is amusing more or less.
There is even a little amusement to be got out of
baiting Cassilis ; therefore I wish to make the most
At this moment Rudell came into the room and
Parfitt turned to him :
' Look here, what is all this mystery about Cas-
A Study of Remorse 249
* You should know best, since it was you who
' I ? — I merely remark that I saw him ten years ago
and produce a drawing of him, and you bolt off to old
Basset with a face of as much importance as though
you had found the missing heir to a million. Since
then you have appeared lost in meditation over some
stupendous discovery. Considering that I am the
pioneer, you might be a trifle more communicative.'
* Merely a curious coincidence that I thought I
would mention to Basset.'
' It is more than that,' rejoined Mark, staring hard
at his brother-in-law, ' and I want my share of the
fun. I declare I thought Cassilis was the chap that
suicided. Queer thing to pick him up again here.'
' Not unusual. If you have met a man once you
are very likely to meet him again.'
Parfitt yawned. ' Has old Basset taken offence on
behalf of his favourite? We don't seem to be invited
to dine there as often as formerly.'
' We are all three asked for to-morrow,' said his
' Oh, will Cassilis be there ? '
' He is dining at Outwood, I believe,' said Rudell.
' Ah, Basset's arrangement, I suppose. Or his own.'
' I do wish, Mark,' exclaimed Mrs. Rudell, ' that
you would talk of something or somebody else. I
am quite tired of Dr. Cassilis.'
So no more was said at that time.
Towards the end of August June Heald, having
been married in Woffendale as Jane Stanham, widow,
to Abel Gresty, widower, returned to the farm as its
mistress ; the bridegroom remarking of his wedding as
250 Quality Corner
he sat down to a heavy tea in the best parlour, that
' it wur a load off his mind, an' happen th' weather
'ud take up a bit now.'
To which cordial assent was given by Mr. and
Mrs. Stretton, who had been invited to welcome the
The weather did ' take up.' September came with
misty gold radiance of sunshine, and veiling sparkle
of gossamer on the hedgerows.
One shimmering morning June Gresty, throwing
meal to the ducks, saw Rudell coming up to the farm,
and recognised him instantly. This gave her an ad-
vantage, for she thereby had time to decide on a plan
of action while he was endeavouring to trace in the
fresh comely woman before him, the worn haggard
girl he had seen in Bramsall ten years ago.
' Mrs. Stanham, I think,' he said stopping at the
' No, sir. My name is Gresty.'
* Ah, I beg pardon. But at one time it was Stan-
' My first husband's name, sir.'
' And then you lived in Bramsall.'
' Yes, sir.'
Rudell paused for a moment.
' When there you gave evidence at an inquest on
a gentleman who lodged with you, Mr. Thorold.
There was another gentleman lodging with you at the
time. Dr. Cassilis.'
' Sir,' replied June, looking calmly at him, ' I mind
well seeing yo' at th' inquest, an' I reckon yo' mind
hearing a' I said. I have naught more to say, sir.
An' I dunnot know as I care o'er much to speak o'
A Study of Remorse 251
a time that wur as full o' trouble as a wasp's nest o'
' I am aware,' said Rudell, ' that Dr. Cassilis was
in the house on the night of Mr, Thorold's death, for
my brother-in-law happened to walk down the street
and saw him at the window.'
' I ha' no more to say, sir, than what I said then.'
' But, my good woman, you distinctly stated that
your other lodger had left, yet Dr. Cassilis himself
acknowledges that he was in Bramsall that night. I
am intending to make further enquiries.'
' Very well, sir.'
June's unmoved serenity rather puzzled Rudell. He
had expected her to be disconcerted, which she em-
phatically was not.
' What was your reason, Mrs. Gresty, for saying
that Dr. Cassilis had left, when he was there ? '
' Dr. Cassilis's name wur never mentioned, sir. I
spoke o' my other lodger.'
' But Dr. Cassilis was your other lodger.' Rudell
said this hoping to entrap June into the admission, for
he was not sure of the identity of the lodger and
Cassilis. The latter might have been staying at another
house in the street.
June, however, continued speaking as though she
had not heard.
' An' as fur Bramsall an' everything as happened
there, I've no mind to be speaking on't. I've for-
gotten a deal, an' I mean to forget a' as I can. If so
be as yo' wish to ask th' old questions o'er again, sir,
th' answers '11 be th' same as they wur then. Yo'U
excuse my saying as I'm busy, there's a mort o' work
to be done on a farm.'
2^2 Quality Corner
Here June threw the remainder of the meal to the
ducks, and saying gravely, ' Good-day, sir,' disap-
Now Rudell could have asked a good many more
questions, and would have done so had not the thought
of Basset's objections restrained him during the inter-
view. He did not wish to quarrel with his old friend.
And after all, he had gained the knowledge that June
was here to be questioned further whenever he felt
' It is a good position she has taken up,' he mused
as he went back, * one from which it will be difficult to
dislodge her. If she were in the witness-box ! But
the most one can do now is to make a few private
enquiries. I wish Basset would hear reason. She did
not deny that Cassilis and the missing lodger were one
and the same. Of course they are the same ! I have
a great mind to ask Cassilis if she was his landlady.
Basset will make a fuss about it if he hears. He'll say
it is not fair. But '
And Rudell walked slowly home, reflecting.
June Gresty also reflected. She was grateful to
Cassilis for past acts of kindness, and felt concerned
that his name should thus be brought up in connec-
tion with his friend's death, which she knew had
been a great blow to him, and was, she could see, a
painful memory now. She was an intelligent woman
too, and understood the professional injury he would
suffer if sinister rumours were spread abroad in Ring-
' That Mr. Rudell's nigh ready to say as he killed
poor Mr. Thorold,' she thought, recalling the argu-
ments at the inquest as to whether it was suicide or
A Study of Remorse 253
accident, and Rudell's suspicious attitude then. June
recollected too seeing Parfitt walk past her house that
night. She had looked out on hearing his footsteps,
thinking it might be her husband returning. ' I
shouldna ha' thowt a gentleman would ha' gone
about to make mischief like yon ! ' she murmured to
herself as she cooked Gresty's dinner. Her anger with
the artist was great and she shrewdly suspected his
motive, farmer Gresty having naturally told her the
gossip of the town.
There is a Spanish tale of a student who swallowed
a poisoned love-philtre and straightway imagined him-
self to be made of glass. The inhabitants of every
country town reverse the story. They believe them-
selves normally opaque, but are as clearest crystal to
the eyes of those around them ; their hopes — plans —
all as distinctly visible to their fellows as the changes
of the leaf, the sparkle of the snow.
Therefore Ringway was perfectly aware that Mark
Parfitt had thought of marrying Basset's adopted
daughter, that Herries had returned and meant to try
his fortune again, that Tony Occleston also cherished
vague hopes. Finally, Ringway suspected Cassilis of
similar dreams, but in this case gossip was uncertain
whether he dreamt of Thea Basset or Emily Darnton.
To all this June had listened with interest, an interest
which deepened when she discovered what Cassilis had
never surmised for an instant, the identity of Dorothea
Basset with the child Dolly Thorold of whom her
father had spoken so lovingly during his fatal sojourn
' O' course Miss Thea's name isna Basset,' Gresty
had said, ' but folks call her so. Hoo wur left wi'out
254 Quality Corner
either mother or father ; ' and he proceeded to explain
how her father had been a friend of Basset's, and how
Basset had consequently adopted the child. ' An' I
mind Mr. Thorold well. He stayed i' Quality Corner
many a toime. It wur a pity he went an' poisoned
hissen by accident. I reckon Miss Thea's as loike him
as two peas, barring th' eyes an' her being a bit pale.'
Then June knew and looked at Thea with extreme
interest when she chanced to come down to the farm
one day with Basset. The little tricks of gesture that
had so often reminded Cassilis of his dead friend were
all recognised by June. As the weeks went by, she
wondered whether gossip spake truly, whether Cassilis
wished to marry Thorold's daughter, whether he was
aware of her being that daughter, and whether the
marriage would take place. To June's eyes it seemed
a very suitable one. In her gratitude she was glad
to think that Cassilis might have a smooth and
happy life. A woman more talkative would prob-
ably have mentioned the fact of Thorold's child
living in Quality Corner, but June's northern reserve
had been increased by her life of repression in
Bramsall. She quietly looked on. Rudell's questions
now disturbed her. She realised that if Parfitt were
a rival, he could certainly injure Cassilis by exciting
suspicion that he was concerned in Thorold's death.
It now seemed a pity, June thought, that she had
said Cassilis had gone away, when he had been in
the house that night. But she had done it beHeving
that if he were obliged to return to Bramsall for the
inquest he would lose all chance of the appointment
he so much desired, and she had seen enough of his
poverty to comprehend how vital a thing the chance
A Study of Remorse 255
was to him. Hearing nothing, she had supposed all
well, till from Cassilis himself this summer she learnt
that fever had snatched away his chance, and almost
his life ; and that when barely recovered he had re-
turned to know what had happened, and had found
only an empty house. Still, had Parfitt not come to
Ringway all would now have been well with Cassilis.
And all might yet be well. Thus pondering, June
resolved that having said he had gone before that
night, she would still say so; or rather, she would
still keep silence unless Cassilis desired her to speak.
But chiefly she hoped to hear no more of the matter
and therefore mentioned it to none.
BUT presently a breath of suspicion went abroad
during these September days. Did Parfitt first
whisper it ? The rumour grew. People said Dr. Cassilis
had done something in the past. What was it ? No one
knew; therefore the whisper was the more ominous.
The secret had been discovered by Mr. Rudell; that
was why the doctor was not now invited to Number
Four. The tale reached Outwood, where George Oc-
cleston received it with derision, questioned Basset,
and on hearing the origin of the story, scoffed the
' I never heard such rubbish in my life,' he declared
to his wife. ' A pity Rudell has not more sense. As
for Parfitt, I never liked him any more than Basset
did. We were right. It is very unpleasant for Cas-
silis. I am extremely sorry. Not that I think the
report will seriously injure him. When Parfitt has
gone, the tale will die away if Rudell does not keep
it up; and he will hardly do that in the face of Bas-
' It is very awkward,' said Mrs. Occleston slowly.
' Dr. Cassilis owns to having been there when Mr.
' For which reason I am convinced Rudell's sus-
picions are perfectly groundless ; otherwise Cassilis
would have denied it.'
' There is the portrait, you see.'
A Study of Remorse 257
* That proves nothing. He could have said Parfitt
had done it lately.'
' But having owned so much, why does not Dr. Cas-
silis say more ? '
' Probably hard up, as Anthony suggests. No man
likes to talk about his poverty to strangers, and after
all, we are strangers.'
' We know nothing whatever about him,' murmured
Mrs. Occleston, still thoughtfully.
' Anybody can see what the man is,' replied her
husband. * I'll ask Herries' opinion. You'll find he
will agree with me.'
' I dare say. But I have once or twice fancied that
Dr. Cassilis admires Thea.'
' Well, what if he does ? There will be time enough
to make further inquiries if he says anything. Be-
sides, she would not take him. It would be a poor
match for her.'
' That is a consideration just worth nothing at all.'
' Oh well, you'll see things will adjust themselves
somehow. They generally do. But I shall not ask
Parfitt here again, and I shall give Rudell a little ad-
vice. Lawyers seldom get any, and they need it more
than most men.'
' It is all very awkward,' repeated Mrs. Occleston,
There were others who recognised the awkwardness
of the situation. Ringway was rapidly dividing into
two camps, the believers in Cassilis and the non-
believers. Old Sol Ingers, to whose ears the tale came
soonest, opened his snuff-box, took a pinch with great
deliberation ; then snapping the lid before the fingers
of the tale-bearer could insert themselves, demanded:
258 Quality Corner
' Dost tha' keep thy bonds fro' picking an' stealing,
' Ay, I do,' indignantly.
' Then keep thy tongue fro' lying an' slandering
But the old seedsman knew well how such reports
travel and how they affect Hfe in a country place. It
was with real concern that he set himself, as far as in
him lay, to silence the insidious whisper. Happily there
were many others who ignored it ; one being the eccen-
tric Mr. Pugh, who, with well-meaning coarseness,
sent for Cassilis and told him the rumour.
' Not as I believe it,' said Mr. Pugh sturdily, ' but
folks as believe the world is round '11 believe anything.
You take my advice, doctor, and bring an action
against Rudell and Parfitt.'
' The latter will be leaving soon. It is hardly worth
while,' Cassihs replied, conscious that Pugh meant well,
but still more conscious of a desire to throw him
through his own window.
' I dunno about its not being worth while. It 's
always worth while to bring an action against a man
who can pay, especially when he's a stranger. You
see, a jury'll not be so likely to back him up. You're
pretty sure to win if you've got any show of right on
your side, and you certainly have. I don't mind lend-
ing you a trifle towards law-expenses,' added Mr. Pugh
* You are most kind, but I think not,' and Cassilis
rose to go.
' Now you think over it,' said Mr. Pugh. ' I'm a
business man and my advice is good. It's never any
use to knuckle under. Folks think you're afraid. If
A Study of Remorse 259
a man said I'd done summat queer in times past I'd
make him prove his words or pay for 'em. Yon
think over it. I hear you dined over there last night,'
' He's not a bad sort — Occleston, I mean,' Mr. Pugh
continued. ' If he'd hear reason about them keepers,
and beat his guns into pruning-hooks, and do away
with them rabbits and things, and '
' Be a totally different man to what he is,' sug-
* Well, yes,' complacently. ' I reckon we all need
improvement. But it's summat to have a chap like
that to stand by you.'
Here Cassilis perceived that Pugh was impressed
by the fact of Occleston remaining friendly.
' You make yon Parfitt pay comfortable damages
as you can lay by,' Pugh went on, ' and don't think o'
leaving the place. You set still and put his money
in your pocket. That's the sensible way o' taking
' Do people think I am leaving ? ' CassiHs enquired,
' Well, they do and they don't. Some on 'em think
it's likely. Don't you make that mistake. Put some
o' Parfitt's cash in your pocket, and everyone '11 be
backing you up. That's human nature that is,' ob-
served Mr. Pugh reflectively. ' And besides, since the
Woffendale folk are fools enough to pay the chap for
them pictures, you may as well get hold o' some o'
the money and keep it in the place so to speak. That's
my opinion, and I'm a business man.'
Cassihs went home considerably surprised. He
260 Quality Corner
had long perceived the shrewdness that lay beneath
his patient's eccentricities, but Pugh's attitude towards
himself was unexpected.
That attitude resulted from two feelings of which
Cassilis had little knowledge ; the clannish dislike of
a passing stranger, and an equally sincere liking for
Cassilis himself. Pugh had found his doctor an un-
wearied listener who never agreed with him. Let
anyone pause for a moment, and he will see how
unique and cheering is this combination. Had
Cassilis agreed with Pugh's theories, Pugh would
have scorned him. Here it may be observed that
very few theorists really desire to convert the world
to their way of thinking, for in that case their amuse-
ment would vanish. What they enjoy is the social
racket they create. They desire to draw attention
to themselves, and there is no easier method of doing
that than by posing as teachers. We can all teach
something, even if it is only some new way of making
a fool of oneself. Pugh had derived great pleasure
from the perpetual effort to convert Cassilis to his
views, and he was grateful. He showed his gratitude
in the manner natural to him. Delicacy he had none.
It seemed a reasonable and friendly act to men-
tion the report, and to offer advice as to the best
way of dealing with it. The effect upon Cassilis was
one of mingled anger and astonishment. Presently,
as he walked home, the anger died. However offen-
sive Pugh might be, his intention in so speaking was
friendly. The warning did not fall on ears wholly
unprepared for it, yet the shock was a tolerably
severe one. Cassilis felt that heart-chill of coming
loss of work that only the worker knows; the ice-
A Study of Remorse 261
touch that tells of the nearing frost, the pitiless
whisper in the shrinking ear : — ' Soon you will have
nothing to do. You will earn nothing. The old
times once more ! The long sick days. The long
shivering nights. The empty cupboard, and its winter
companion the well-nigh fireless grate. The boots
that let in wet and snow and stiffening rheumatism.
The thin garments that will not keep out cold. The
curious perpetual exhaustion arising from insufficient
food. The mocking sunshine and the bitter cold.
All the whole year's sickening, infuriating, infernal
Here CassiHs recalled a peculiarly enraging mem-
ory; the bodily and mental pain caused by the smell
of the next-door dinner in those days. He laughed
as the vivid recollection swept over him, but the laugh
was not joyous. There is a woeful lack of dignity
about starvation. Hold up a scalded finger and sym-
pathy will be general. But say your stomach has been
too long half-empty to permit the rest of you to work
well, and in the eyes of your listeners you will see the
profound — pity ? oh no, the contempt they feel for you.
Modern wise men will tell you that physical pain is
soon forgotten ; which simply means that those same
wise men have never suffered any pain, or else have no
memories. The recollection or otherwise of bodily
pain depends, like all recollections, on the sort of
memory possessed by the sufferer. To James Cassilis
had been given a memory of singular tenacity. He
recalled perfectly his varied sensations during that
time of penury ; and recalling them, hated equally the
memory and himself.
That night he got out the little model from its
resting-place, and set it on the table before him. The
irony of fate! Or to speak more truly, the conse-
quences of his own failure. Had he but kept instinc-
tively to that narrow sword-path of right, wherein
the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err; that
simple code of honour that a child may understand ; he
would not now have been a hunted remorseful man.
For a few minutes he pondered Mr. Pugh's sug-
gestion. The advice was good ; but like most advice,
it had the slight drawback of being impossible to fol-
low. To bring an action against Parfitt would be to
condemn himself. How explain his apparent flight? —
the concealment of his having been in the house?
' Rudell suspects me,' he muttered, ' of doing that
which I did not do. But is it any blacker than the thing
Had the case been that of another man he could
have answered the question. But as he himself was
the criminal, he found no reply to it, but sat and
looked at the accusing model till the dawn glimmered
THUS, despite the championship of Basset, the
friendship of the Occlestons, the sturdy backing
of Sol Ingers ; softly, surely as the falling leaves, so
fell on Cassilis the conviction that he must go — must
leave this cloud shadowed country that had dazzled his
eyes with so fair a rainbow. Even though that rain-
bow had well-nigh faded, he yet desired to linger
awhile in this elfin corner of the workaday world; to
linger at least till fate drove him out.
For the glamour of the north-west was very strong
just then. It had flung o& its habitual garments of
ash-colour and emerald, and all the woods were
tawny-orange and scarlet, and the air like wine. In
the shining late September days, with their misty
dawns, their blue warmth of noon, their fragrance of
mignonette and moss and dry stubble, their exquisite
chill as the mist returned at sunset, their shimmering
moonlit nights — in all these changing hours Cassilis
seemed to traverse the whole range of feeling; to
understand how much there was to lose in life. He
enjoyed himself with the savage enjoyment of the
man who knows how soon all enjoyment will cease.
He despaired with equal savagery. He scofled too
at his own enjoyment and his own despair. He
even criticised both at times, with that habit of the
bystander that had become second nature to him. It
264 Quality Corner
struck him now and then that the amount of knowl-
edge he was acquiring was out of all proportion to
its usefulness. But he was not asked whether or no
he would read this chapter of the Dark Fairy-tale.
There were the pages before his eyes, not to be
passed over; pages that he meant to have been
written so differently. Perhaps the reading was
hardest at dawn, that most terrible hour of the
twenty-four; the time when all the powers of life are
at their fullest, when the vision is clearest, the pulse-
beats strongest, and all life is as crystal to the sight
of spirit and soul and body. As the square of the
window changed from black to blue, then paled to
white and warmed to saffron, Cassilis, watching it,
thought of the Greek Aurora and laughed in mockery.
Aurora ? — a children's fancy ! Whatever the day-
break may be in Greece, here in the strong north the
dawn is a Valkyria, and she bears a javelin. Yon-
der in the east is the white gleam of the steel. The
wind rises, that wind of the dawn that seems to
blow unlike any other. Through the air come the
poignant notes of the waking birds — calling — calling,
and the throbs of the waking heart answer them.
All the world responds to that javelin touch of light;
which, like the spear of the Sagas, slays and renews
life, pierces and invigorates, at one and the same
Cassilis got somehow through the dawns, the noons,
the nights ; got through his daily work ; as people do,
even with Heaven and Hell raging within them ; talked
and laughed, jested and looked round on all things
with the eyes of one condemned. Before very long-
he would see these things no more. He said ' things '
A Study of Remorse 265
when speaking to himself; he could not say these
Yet was there a singular tenacity about him in
that he had no thought of seeking death or of giving
in. He meant to go on through the years of his life
as he had done before he drifted into Ringway. Re-
morse had smitten him into endurance. Though
neither in this world nor in the next was there anything
to hope for, he prepared to face again the wandering,
the loneliness, the insignificance that would become
more intolerable as he grew older and as time went on.
There was also much else that he was prepared
to face. The sum he had paid for this Ringway
practice was literally all that he had. He would
start life again with a few pounds. Doubtless he
could have sold the practice again, but he could not
bring himself to bargain over it. In truth, the hesi-
tation that had undone him again rose to the surface
in this matter. He could not take the irrevocable
step that would banish him. He told himself he
would go suddenly — some night — leaving farewell
letters to Basset and others who had been his friends.
He would not sell the practice. It should be his to
the last moment. Of course, all this was folly, the
greater folly because he knew right well the value of
every sixpence he was throwing away ; knowledge
possessed only by those who have now and then had
but a sixpence between them and destitution. Yet is
such folly wholly foolishness? Cassilis had none de-
pendent on him. He was free to return to the hell of
poverty from which he had escaped.
To return to it. He thought a good deal about
that return as September melted into October. There
0.66 Quality Corner
is monotony in repeating unpleasant experiences. It
is only pleasant things that vary. No two pearl-white
dawns are quite alike, no two rose-scarlet sunsets ; and
the blue gloom of one wonderful night is not the blue
gloom of the next, though equally lovely and alluring.
But the mud that you trudge through and the stinging
sleet that cuts your face, are the same to-day as they
were yesterday and will be the same to-morrow and
Of course poverty has its uses. It is not exactly
the forcing-house of those convenient virtues of meek-
ness and resignation that most good and respectable
people believe it to be. Indeed, its moral instruction
may be considered doubtful. But it teaches lots of
other things and teaches them thoroughly. It is a
better school than Squeers' establishment. The educa-
tional effect of ' w-i-n-d-e-r, window, go and clean
it,' is nothing to that of ' w-o-l-f, wolf, go and fight
it.' One carries the scars of the fight to one's death
and probably after, but one never forgets what one has
learnt in that struggle. One never throws away one's
blows again ; one knows how to plant them where each
will tell. Whether the instruction is worth the cost of
learning is another matter. Some preliminary quali-
fication is needed to make a thoroughly good scholar.
You must first have been Dives before you become
Lazarus. Then by the time your training is finished
you will be not only able, but thoroughly willing, to
smite impartially both Dives and Lazarus, and to
waste no sentiment upon either. For does not the first
look a fool in his purple robes ? And is not the second
loathsome? And you know you have been both your-
self, which makes you hit the harder.
A Study of Remorse 267
There are two passions that will curb this abiding
ferocity caught from and characteristic of the wolf —
Remorse and Love. That Cassilis had developed
little of the wolf's savagery was owing to his having
been under the dominion of the first feeling. As for
the second, that holds out a cup of so strong wine
that whosoever drinks, remembers his misery no
more. But from this he was withheld by the strong
coil of fate that he himself had twisted. It was a
more complicated knot than he knew, but even as he
saw it the interlacing was more than enough to
destroy all hope of disentanglement being possible.
Again and again Cassilis went over the miserable
incidents of that fatal night. If only he had spoken
while yet there was time. Spoken? — a gesture would
have been enough. If only he had not gone away.
' It was the fever that already held me,' whispered
the self-defending spirit within. But he knew right
well that there are men whose instinctive honour no
fever could shake. And that there are others — more
numerous these — whose ordinary common-sense would
not forsake them, though their honour might be non-
* I was not only a traitor, but a fool,' he said to
himself one misty October dawn, ' and above all, I
am a failure — a stupendous one. I meant to be high-
minded, and for meanness I should be hard to beat.'
Here he laughed a little. ' I meant also to succeed
in life, and I see before me ignominious starvation ;
not that of the besieged soldier holding his own, but
that of the tramp in the ditch — and I deserve it.'
CASSILIS did not read this chapter of his Dark
Fairy-tale alone. The whole Corner was en-
gaged in either trying to decipher it, or in averting too
keen eyes, and neither occupation was exhilarating.
Yet, how could the Corner help itself? The fault
was Parfitt's, who had accidentally come into posses-
sion of a leaf and held it up for all to see. Basset
and Tony Occleston ignored the matter from friend-
ship to Cassilis, Susette Rudell from sheer boredom ;
while Emily Darnton, Rudell, and Parfitt tried to
read the tale, their reasons being different, Thea?
Well, she neither tried to read nor turned her eyes
away, but looked at what came before her vision and
Slowly as the deeper tints of October coloured the
country-side, a faint shadow crept over the Corner; a
sense of division — of strife.
* We seem to be playing a perpetual game of puss-
in-the-corner,' Emily remarked one day when she and
Thea were alone together. ' Our thoughts are ab-
sorbed in planning how to visit each other without
the Rudells and Dr. CassiHs meeting. It is really be-
coming monotonous, and I feel that our habitual cheer-
fulness is giving way under the strain. All this
merely because Dr. Cassilis was once poor and living
in a dingy street ! What nonsense it is ! '
* Yes, it is nonsense,' echoed Thea abstractedly.
A Study of Remorse 269
' Tony says it is rubbish and Number Four ought
to be ashamed/ Emily went on. ' I believe in Tony.
Is there not an acid to test gold? Tony is my acid.
I often test people by his opinion of them. He knows
instinctively whether they are gold or parcel-gilt.'
' And don't you ? '
' I am not sure.' Emily paused. * This is October,
is it not? Then the Bishop will soon be back. Just
now I am more interested in the Bishop than in any-
* Really. He will restore cheerfulness to the Corner
if he comes. If not, I shall meet him at Outwood.
Mary is a sensible woman and will invite him when I
* I will make Daddy invite him when you wish.
You know he is already pledged to one dinner. Are
you serious ? '
' Perfectly. I admire the Bishop. The Bishop ad-
mires me. It would be a pity to allow such commend-
able feeling to die away for want of a little encourage-
' It would indeed,' replied Thea gravely, with amuse-
ment in her eyes. ' Daddy and I will exert ourselves
on your behalf, though Outwood has advantages over
the Corner in that it provides strolls along the terrace
and beside the mere.
' The Bishop has got beyond strolling on terraces,'
said Emily with decision. ' He needs comfort. A
good dinner would be more to the purpose, and Mr.
Basset can give that.'
* But are you really in earnest ? ' Thea asked this
ayo Quality Corner
' I think so. I am too modern to take life as it
chooses to present itself. I prefer to arrange my exist-
ence. Perhaps I may not like the Bishop when I see
more of him. I will not for a moment entertain the
thought that he may not like me ! But supposing
that our mutual admiration continues, I believe I
should find the episcopal palace more amusing as a
permanent abode than Number Three, Quality Comer.'
' Woffendale smoke and youthful curates,' remarked
' I will mould the curates to better things. As for
the smoke, I do not mind it. I am not an elfin crea-
ture like you. That love of prowling about wild places
is your only fault.'
Thea rose. ' Will you come into the woods with me
Emily shook her head. ' You know I cannot endure
walking. Another point in favour of the Bishop —
I could use the episcopal carriage. Why don't you
drive ? '
* Along roads ? — made roads ? Not I. When I am
old I can drive. Come! The day is lovely.'
' I prefer to toast my toes and reflect on the Bishop.
Take Ponto instead.'
Ponto went instead.
Something akin to Emily's dissatisfaction with the
Corner was expressed by Susette Rudell to her hus-
' I do wish, Gregory, that either Dr. Cassilis had
never come, or that we had never asked Mark down
here. You men are always quarrelling, and we women
have to put up with the consequent unpleasantness.
What is it all about? We shall end by losing clients
A Study of Remorse 271
through it, you will see. Everbocly seems to be taking
part in it. I wish you would leave Mark to fight it
out by himself. He began it with that stupid drawing
of his, and nothing matters to him. He is not living
here. Presently he will go away and leave all this
fuss behind him, and this is all we shall gain by his
visit. I thought he had more sense.'
The exasperation of A'lark's sister was very natural,
particularly as she had helped him to create the gen-
eral disturbance ; and Rudell felt there was a good
deal of truth in his wife's observations. He himself
was not altogether pleased by the turn affairs were
' We cannot blame ourselves,' he said. ' Your
brother has frequently been invited. If he had not
come now, he would have been here some other time.'
' Oh, I don't know that. Mark hates the country.
Only his painting brought him down. I wish he had
never got the commission, or that he had never shown
that old drawing. Ten years ago too! And nobody
seems to know exactly what all the fuss is about ex-
' Yes. Mark is right. You have discovered some-
thing, and you will not say what it is. Is it going
to do us any good ? '
' Not that I am aware of.'
' Then I am sure you had better let it alone.'
The same advice was oft'ered by Basset when he
heard of the interview with June Gresty.
' She is a sensible woman,' he said. ' Give it up,
Rudell. That Cassilis purposely caused Thorold's
death I will never believe. If by any unhappy chance
I'^l Quality Corner
he was concerned in the miserable mistake which
killed our friend, what would it profit us to know it ? '
' There is our duty to Thorold.'
' But is it our duty ? I regret that you should hold
the popular idea of duty — to make life intolerable for
somebody ; particularly if that somebody is in any way
remarkable. I consider it a mistake to kick remarkable
people into the gutter. They have a trick of getting
up and hitting back a blow that echoes through the
' Not if you hit hard enough.'
' Then they hit back in the next world, which is
' The next world is a long way off,' said Rudell. ' I
think I will risk the return buffet. Thorold was quite
as remarkable a personality, more remarkable in fact.
As I believe he was sent out of this life by Cassilis '
' My dear Rudell,' interrupted Basset, ' I cannot —
will not believe it.'
' Will not,' commented the other quietly. ' Pre-
cisely. You will not. But to ignore the facts that
have come to our knowledge would be simply absurd.
I am struck by the singular — I may say, providential
— manner in which Cassilis's presence there has been
brought to light. My brother-in-law's sketch; made
carelessly, kept as carelessly, preserved as it were by
fate, and brought down here the summer of Cassilis's
arrival. You must really pardon my perseverance in
the affair. I intend asking him whether he lodged in
Mrs. Stanham's house when Thorold was there.'
' You will not ! '
* Why not ? The question is a legitimate one. I see
you think him guilty.'
A Study of Remorse 273
* No, I do not. But I feel the meanness of endeav-
ouring to entrap a man into an admission which may
prove awkward for him, however innocent he may
In truth, Basset felt himself somewhat in the position
of one from whom the hunted quarry craves sanctuary.
Cassilis's frank acknowledgment that Parfitt's tale
was true, and equally frank statement that he did
not wish to say anything more, had appealed strongly
to his host, who felt bound to stand by this stranger
at his gates. And Basset was an adept at shutting eyes
and ears when he so pleased.
Rudell opened his snuff-box with great deliberation :
' We lawyers are permitted that sort of meanness.'
' No one can accuse your profession of neglecting
to use the privilege,' said Basset.
The snuff-box closed with a snap.
* Basset, is it possible that we are quarrelling ? And
about a stranger ? '
* If I have said too much, I apologise. But strangers
have always been the cause of quarrelling. When
we are young, the disturbing element is a woman or
a horse. When we are old, it is a man or an invest-
* Well,' getting up, * I shall be away for a fortnight
on business, so Cassilis will liave a respite.'
* When you return, you will at least let me know
what you intend doing ? '
* Yes, I will let you know. I am convinced he was
with Thorold. Ask him, and you'll see.'
' I shall not do so,' said Basset.
Now on this particular afternoon it so happened
that Thea was sitting by the drawing-room fire, while
274 Quality Corner
the shadows gathered in the corners as the short day-
died. She was so buried in cushions that the dancing
flames only glimmered on a hand here, a jewel there,
and in two deep shining eyes. The October air was
chilly and the fire was not the little gipsy-fire of the
summer, but a glowing pyre of burning logs, throw-
ing up flickering tongues of amethyst and indigo, sea-
green and sapphire — dream flames, unlike the hot hard
blaze of coal.
In those dream flames Dorothea Thorold saw again
and again, each time more clearly, that page of the
Dark Fairy-tale which Parfitt had held aloft and Cas-
silis had partially explained. She did not in the least
resent the very fragmentary explanation. What she
resented was the fact that Cassilis himself seemed
unable to control the situation. He took it calmly
enough, bore himself well throughout; yet the un-
deniable truth remained that he was powerless, or
appeared to be powerless, to throw Parfitt, his
drawings, his insolence, effectively and for ever into
the background. Always she remembered that it
was Herries, not Cassilis, who had checked Parfitt
that night; and this failure is what no woman of
strong feeling ever pardons. Sooner or later her
thoughts will circle round this fatal flaw, and it is
simply a matter of time before the man will be laid
aside — gently and tenderly it may be, but still laid
aside — amid the dolls of her childhood ; and regarded
with the same amused wonder and the same tolerant
memory. It may also happen that he who is thus
laid aside may never know that he is but a little
dearer than her dog. Nevertheless it is true all the
A Study of Remorse 275
Yet Thea would undoubtedly have married Cassilis
had he asked her at this time. The mists of morning
are not the clearest atmosphere in which to look on
life. It is the hour of belief in others, of self-abnega-
tion even when that belief has moments of warning
doubt. The hour when it seems good to cast pearls
before swine, or at best to bestow them in charity on
some half-transformed follower of Comus,or shrivelled
philosopher, or dwarf-souled bore. There are few of
the daughters of men who have not occasion to say
with the immortal Bottom : ' I have had a dream.
Methought I was, and methought I had — but man is
but a patched fool if he will offer to say what me-
thought I had ! '
Not that Cassilis was ever either Comus-follower,
dry philosopher, or bore. The fault in him was that
element of unexpected weakness and indecision which
seems inseparable from a complex character such as
his. The crossing impulses are for a moment equally
powerful, and so produce a temporary deadlock.
What is needed is that some yet more powerful under-
current of feeling should rise to the surface, and,
bearing all before it, permanently control the stream
of life. Failing this, there will surely be occasional
deadlocks ; as in the instance of Cassilis.
So, as Thea looked at the Dark Fairy-tale in those
blue and violet flames, the scene which stood out
most clearly was that in which Cassilis had failed to
hold his own against another man. She did not
concern herself about the reason. Had he but
quelled Parfitt then, or beaten him subsequently, she
would not have greatly troubled herself as to the right
or wrong of the affair. That criticism comes later.
276 Quality Corner
But Cassilis's attitude in this matter disappointed her,
and the disappointment was a grave one. Linked
with it were pity and an instinctive desire to shield,
passing naturally into anger against Parfitt — the cause
of all this turmoil in the Corner. Also, a slight un-
reasonable annoyance with Herries for having proved
himself more capable of controlling an awkward
moment than Cassilis. Over and above all these
changing thoughts was the sense of pleasant com-
panionship that Cassilis gave. Whether he was strong
or weak, good or bad, he had undoubtedly the gift of
being a peculiarly sympathetic comrade. Therefore,
while idly watching those soft wood-flames that now
deepened to indigo and glowed to violet, now shot
up in vivid blue and fairy green, Thea recalled the
many days and weeks of the past summer through
which Cassilis's presence had seemed to sparkle like
a gold thread running through the warp and woof of
life. The Corner had been brightened by his coming,
the Corner that now in these autumn days was divided
against itself on his account.
Sound is a curious thing. We say we understand
it scientifically, which is merely a way of disguising
our very considerable ignorance. If you sat by the
drawing-room fire as Thea was doing, you could hear
what was said by a person standing just outside the
study door, which was across the hall and at the end
of a short passage. Whereas if you stood in the
hall, you would only hear a confused murmur. Old
houses have many such tricks of sound. Thus it
chanced that when Rudell, at the close of his con-
versation with Basset, came out into the hall, his few
A Study of Remorse 277
last words were as distinctly audible to Thea as though
he stood beside her.
' I am convinced he was with Thorold. Ask him,
and you'll see.'
And Basset's voice replied.
' I shall not do so.'
These few words, as by a lightning flash, lit for
Thea that dim page of the Dark Fairy-tale. She had
of course known that Bramsall was the town in which
her father had died ten years ago. She remembered
him well, he had been the sort of man to be remem-
bered by a child ; but of the manner of his death, and
of the inquest, she had never heard. Therefore she
had not dreamt of any connection between her father's
fatal stay in Bramsall and the accident of Cassilis
having been there at the same time. Yet Rudell's
words came to her with the odd sense of having been
understood before — long ago — at some remote period.
Of course Cassilis had been with her father in his last
illness. That was it. And in some way he was blamed
for its fatal termination. Thea sat up indignantly
among her cushions as this idea shot through her mind
simultaneously with the closing of the street door
behind Rudell. Then Basset's footstep came along the
' Daddy,' she said as he entered, * supposing that
Dr. Cassilis was with my father, why should the
whole Corner worry about it ? '
Basset stopped short.
'How — ?' he began. Then he recollected the
travelling of sound in the old house, and felt extreme
278 Quality Corner
' Rudell has a mistaken notion, my dear, that your
father's hfe might have been saved had someone else
been there. But we do not know that Dr. Cassilis
ever saw your father. Rudell merely thinks so be-
cause Parfitt saw him in the street at the time. Of
course it does not fohow that he was in that house.
Rudell wishes me to question him, but that seems to
me both useless and impertinent. If Dr. Cassilis was
there, I am sure he did his best. I might talk it over
with him in a friendly way by-and-by. I am sorry
you overheard Rudell's ill-judged remark.'
Basset stopped and drew a long breath, hoping
his god-daughter would not notice the exceeding lame-
ness of his speech.
' My dear Daddy,' she said, rising out of her chair
and placing her hands upon his shoulders, ' it is you
who are most troubled I believe, and that is not fair.
Is there any reason to suppose my father was neglected
in his last illness ? '
' No, certainly not. He died very suddenly indeed
— so suddenly that there was no time for medical
treatment. Heart failure,' added Basset, determined
to say anything that would keep Thea from the know-
ledge of the lawyer's suspicions. ' I tell Rudell so, but
he thinks Dr. Cassilis had perhaps prescribed for him
Here Basset paused again, bewildered by his own
' But all this seems very vague,' said Thea, ' these
ideas of Mr. Rudell's, I mean. Are they Mr. Parfitt's
' Oh no. No one save Rudell is thinking of your
father. Other people are only prejudiced by Parfitt;
A Study of Remorse 279
who appears to be making a mystery out of nothing.
In fact, my dear, it is all nonsense, and has vexed me
' I see.' Thea was standing on the hearthrug, look-
ing at the soft flickering sea-green flames that were
momentarily changing to sapphire and back to green.
Basset walked up and down the room two or three
times, wondering what would be best to say next.
Dorothea was the old bachelor's one interest in life.
Her father and he, despite considerable difference in
years, had been attached friends ; and on Thorold's
death, it had seemed not only the most natural but
the most pleasant arrangement possible to adopt the
orphan child. Hitherto Basset had sheltered her from
the frets and troubles and ugly incidents of life.
Now ! For a moment even he was inclined to wish
that Cassilis had never appeared in Ringway. Then
he reproached himself for want of friendly feeling,
and returned to the consideration of how to efface the
impression of Rudell's unlucky words.
' My dear, I hope you will not allow this very
trivial disagreement in the Corner to overshadow you
in any way. I really do not know why so much has
been made of it. I am a little surprised at Rudell. '
Thea turned her gaze from the rainbow flames to
her godfather. ' It seems to me,' she observed, ' that
Dr. Cassilis is being v&vy unnecessarily and unreason-
' That is my own view,' replied Basset, relieved
that she did not ask more questions about Bramsall.
' I was saying so to Rudell just now.'
' Well, as I am my father's sole descendant, surely
the matter concerns me more than anyone else. So
28o Quality Corner
it is a mistake in courtesy for Mr. Rudell to — as it
were — aid Mr. Parfitt; or at least, to trouble Dr.
Cassilis without first consulting me. Is it not so ? '
* You are quite right, my dear. I will speak seri-
ously to Rudell. I regret we have not looked at the
affair in that light. We are much to blame.'
' Then, Daddy, since you agree with me, we need
not discuss it further, and you will, as far as possible,
prevent others doing so ? '
' Certainly I will, my dear.' Basset's voice, uncon-
sciously to himself, took the flatness of dismay. So
long as Parfitt's remembrance of Cassilis and Parfitt's
innuendoes were only being discussed by Rudell and
himself, and talked over at Outwood, the affair had
seemed a simple thing that might be checked, even
though he knew rumours adverse to Cassilis had got
abroad. Now that Thea was speaking of this disturb-
ing influence, he suddenly perceived that it was not
under his control.
As Basset now saw the question, either nothing
must be done and the matter allowed to drop, or Thea
must be told the whole story and herself decide. It
was clearly her right to say whether the manner of her
father's death should again be the subject of enquiry.
Well, there was no reason why she should not know
about that accidental dose of poison. Basset wished
with all his heart that he had told her long ago. But it
had seemed a melancholy tale to tell a child of ten, and
then the years had passed. Who would have antici-
pated this return of the old grief, with its added con-
fusion ? Not that Basset believed there was any prob-
ability of Thea wishing to marry Cassilis. Time
enough to deal with that unlikely contingency if it
A Study of Remorse 128 1
should arise. But her godfather did not desire her to
be troubled by the shadow of that past grief. He mar-
velled at himself in that he had not sooner perceived
how any enquiry such as Rudell proposed to make was
not Rudell's concern so much as Thea's. Basset re-
solved by every means in his power to silence rumour
and keep the lawyer quiet. After all, he thought more
hopefully, it was chiefly Parfitt, who would soon be
' I am astonished at my own want of thought,' Bas-
set continued. ' Of course I ought to have told Rudell
that the whole thing was your business, not his.'
' That was very natural. Daddy,' said Thea, smiling.
* When people have known one as a child they seldom
realise that one's childhood passes. I dare say you still
think of me as the small person whom you so gener-
ously brought here ten years ago.'
* My dear, I am more than repaid. No, I do not
regard you as a child. The explanation of my mis-
taken attitude lies in the melancholy fact that the claims
of those beside us are usually overlooked. Not inten-
tionally it may be, but still overlooked.'
' I certainly cannot complain of being overlooked.
I do not recollect my most trifling whim having been
* That is different. People's whims are often grati-
fied, their rights commonly ignored.'
' Oh, Daddy, there is no need for such solemnity !
Tell Mr. Rudell to leave my family affairs to me, and
let us be happy and cheerful again in the Corner as we
used to be.'
' So we will/ said Basset.
SO ended October. Rudell's absence was felt rather
as a relief in Quality Corner, it seemed to slightly
ease the friction. Parfitt was busy finishing his fresco,
and announced his approaching departure; while Su-
sette Rudell, wearied by the unsatisfactory develop-
ment of her plans, accepted with tacit thankfulness the
courtesies offered her by Numbers Two and Three.
Basset cheered up, and hearing the Bishop of Wof-
fendale was home again, invited him to dinner; care-
fully choosing an evening on which he knew Parfitt
and his sister would be engaged elsewhere.
' Mr. Parfitt has a talent for disintegration,' Basset
observed to his god-daughter. ' It is a gift that does
not promote the success of a dinner-party. Therefore
I will not risk the danger of his presence. I should
really prefer the soup to be cold, if such a tragedy were
possible at my table.'
' We must have Emily,' said Thea, mindful of her
friend's confidences concerning the Bishop.
' Of course. And Cassilis. With George Occleston
and his wife, Herries and Anthony, and some Woffen-
dale people whom I wish to ask, we shall be about six-
teen altogether. A convenient number.'
That dinner of Basset's was a success, and the most
unhappy guest present — Cassilis — enjoyed it most.
His time was so short, the hounds so close upon him
now, the wonderful wine of the autumn air, pressed
A Study of Remorse 283
out from the dying leaves by sun and frost, running in
his veins even as he himself seemed to be fleeing before
his foes — all these mingled influences gave him the ex-
hilaration of the man whose death-warrant is signed,
whose execution is near and certain ; increasing his
power of enjoyment, his tingling sense of life, till he
wrung from every moment all that it could give him —
whether of wild regret, or brief delight, or savage
So he enjoyed that evening at Basset's, enjoyed it
all — all. He was the last of the guests to leave, his
host having pressed him to linger:
* You have not far to go, Cassilis. Down one step
and up another.'
He had lingered gladly. Then when he let himself
into his own house, he turned into the chill dark con-
sulting-room, and sitting down at the table, rested his
head on his hands and recalled the light and warmth
of the last few hours.
Yes, he had enjoyed it all. The soft violet colour-
ing of Basset's dining-room, the masses of dull red
chrysanthemums among the sheen and glitter, the easy
cultured conversation, the pleasant laughter. Thea
too had worn chrysanthemums among her laces ; not
red but tawny-petalled blooms, and with that same
strange perfume that was pervading the autumn
woods ; a scent hardly to be called sweet, slightly pun-
gent, subtle, like dry old wine — penetrating and intox-
There was surely something in Basset's theories.
Cassilis passed in thought back to the homely fragrance
of the white pinks that had greeted him when first he
entered Number Two. Then the flat nectarine-like
284 Quality Corner
scent of iris, the green earth-scents of moss and leaf-
age, the dry scent of fern, the violet breath of mignon-
ette, the spice perfume of carnation ; and now, at last,
this odour of chrysanthemum and the winter woods ;
not sweet, not to be distilled, but more heady — more
powerful ; clinging to the blood like a fever.
The night was fairly clear and the moon nearly at
the full. By-and-by a ray of bluish moonlight slowly
travelled across the room, shining in its transit on the
bowed head of the man sitting at the table, a fairy
radiance seeking him in the darkness ; hngering awhile,
then passing away. Long Cassilis sat there, uncon-
scious, in the seething revolt of his own spirit, of the
gloom and the cold around him. Close at hand were
many means of freeing. himself — so far as we know —
from present pain. For instance, that almond-scented
friend — enemy — which is it? — that brings such swift
silence. But it was characteristic of him that never
once did the idea enter his mind. His vitality was too
strong, his imagination too vivid, his spirit too melan-
choly, his capacity for enjoyment too intense, to per-
mit him to slip lightly out of ' that excellent piece of
workmanship,' his body. These sombre natures cling
to life with greater tenacity than the lighter ones. They
are born fighters — against themselves, against the
world, against death.
So the night wore on, a night so filled with moon-
light that the only darkness was indoors. At length
that unreal blue shimmering changed — seemed to van-
ish even in its shining ; to melt into a wonderful lumi-
nous pallor that grew and grew — not light in gloom,
but light that turned the world to light. And Cassilis,
roused by the whiteness that made all things visible,
A Study of Remorse 285
sprang to his feet with a smothered exclamation, and
going upstairs, closed and locked his door, pulling the
heavy curtains over the brightening window to shut
out the terrible dawn which could not be shut out.
The day that followed that dawn was still and lovely.
The scarlet of earlier autumn had given place to the
gold and russet of November. Even the very air had
an aureate tinge, caught from the mellow sunshine and
the yellow leaves that gilded the woods like the pages
of an old missal.
That afternoon Cassilis, walking home by Outwood
Mere, passed through the fir plantation and stopped
for a moment on the bridge. Beneath him the water
was dark as ever in the shadow, and warm shining
amber beyond, where the lake spread out below the
terrace. His thoughts went back to that day in the
summer when he had stood looking down into the black
mirror as now. Then the place in its still beauty had
seemed a haven of rest ; even that deep uncanny
mere, the blessed water of Lethe. He understood the
fairy north better now. Lethe ? No, Eunoe — Remem-
brance ; and for him terrible remembrance. Rest ! —
the seeming peace was elfin mockery. The place was
unchanged, save from grey-greenness to the glow and
light of autumn. The stillness was here too — a deeper
hush than before, a silence that to Cassilis's fancy was
He leant back over the parapet. A few yellow leaves
floated on the dark glassy water. ' Fairy gold ! ' he
said half aloud. ' My fairy gold. Withered leaves ! '
Yes, dead leaves on the black mere, that was all. It
looked threatening too. What fate could one read in
its sinister depths, as in a necromancer's crystal ? Cas-
286 Quality Corner
silis turned these fancies over in his mind, thinking
them deHberately — clinging to these old world imagin-
ings as pitiful spells wherewith to keep at arm's length
the thoughts he feared to realise.
Yet with all his efforts he must needs remember that,
standing here, he had promised himself happiness ; had
said he would forget the past, would enjoy the present ;
and when death came, and after death the Judgment,
at least he would have been happy for awhile. There
was time for years — many years of happiness, and
every hour of those years he could enjoy. He leant
farther over the parapet, and looked at a patch of moss
in a crack of the stone. How emerald it was ! He
was vividly conscious of its colour as his thoughts
whirled on. Enjoy? Yes! — every hour, every mo-
ment he could enjoy; from east to west — from zenith
to nadir — from heaven to hell ! A thousand years
would not give time enough wherein to marvel at the
powder on a moth's wing. Call it by any long-eared
name you will, the mystery and beauty of that dust —
and of other dust — remain the same. A thousand
years too short in which to wonder over a flitting moth,
so slight a thing! While as for the rest — for those
other things not so slight? Whole waves of savagery
swept over Cassilis's soul as he stood there, leaning
over the black water. ' Why, this is hell, nor am I out
of it,' he muttered, looking at the yellow leaves floating
on the dark glassiness, and recalling the mighty line
echoed by so many despairing spirits since it was writ-
ten. * Nor am I out of it,' he repeated slowly, raising
himself from his leaning position.
Does the power to enjoy increase inversely to the
■H!iaEiai!ga5»g3aas»wgiT0i»w»'' — a^ i »» ■ ''
A Study of Remorse 287
opportunities of enjoyment? Or is there truth in the
Irish behef that something fatal — unlucky — goes with
the possession of unusual gifts ? Surely the power to
enjoy intensely is a gift indeed; or rather, a noble in-
heritance. Cassilis thought himself poor yet possess-
ing that rare heritage he was rich exceedingly, with a
wealth that was the accumulation of centuries of
wholesome-living forbears ; in short, the result of re-
straint ; an inheritance which none but himself could
destroy. He had not destroyed it, had not squandered
this priceless possession. He had it in its fulness.
Therefore, standing now on the old bridge, remorseful
and despairing, hunted down, with exile and starvation
waiting for him, it is difficult to say whether he was
most to be pitied — or envied.
He walked away through the fir plantation to the
high road, where a horseman pulled up on seeing him.
It was George Occleston.
* Dine with us this evening,' he said, ' and would
you care to join in a probable row afterwards, or would
you consider it unprofessional? Herries and I and
several more have arranged a regular battue. I have
been nearly cleaned out by poachers lately, but we've
got wind of a gang from Northover coming here to-
night, so have planned a little surprise for 'em. Mean
to beat 'em up and catch a few. Herries will be here,
and several other fellows. I hear Parfitt is coming too.
Not to dinner, but later with the Fenwicks. I suppose
they invited him to join them. He might have waited
till I asked him, I am tired of the fellow. Will you
come ? '
After all, Cassilis was young, and few entertainments
288 Quality Corner
are better than one combining a good dinner, pleasant
company, and a fight for dessert. Besides, why not
enjoy to the last? The end was soon coming.
He accepted with an alacrity that gratified Occles-
ton : ' If you will excuse my going to see Pugh after
dinner. He is in Woffendale for the day, and wishes
to see me in the evening.'
' Unreasonable beggar, Pugh ! ' remarked Occleston.
' The idea of dragging you out from Ringway at that
hour for nothing. Well, it will be easier for you to
walk across from here. Better not tell him you intend
taking a hand in the scrimmage. He might never send
for you again.'
* On the contrary,' rejoined Cassilis, ' he would send
for me all the more, in hope of hearing particulars.'
Occleston laughed. ' I did not think of that. No
doubt I am a great solace to him in the way of amuse-
ment. Good-bye ! See you again this evening.'
He nodded and rode away. Cassilis went along the
road and so up into the woods, where a light white mist
was gathering, and the reddening sunset behind him
turned the yellow leaves to orange, the russet to copper.
Here the air was filled with that curious pungent chrys-
anthemum odour of autumn, and Cassilis, breathing it,
went again in thought over the previous evening, the
night, the dawn, to-day, the future. Then swung back
to the August night when these saffron-coloured woods
were dim in the star-light and thyme-scented, and back
to the rainbow shower when he had taken shelter under
the chestnut, and yet back to St. John's Eve on the hill-
side, Mannannen's garden. The hillside? He would
go home that way. The air would not be so heavily
A Study of Remorse
charged with this breath of the earth, these fumes as of
He turned to the left, over the dank carpet of fallen
leaves that sank a little beneath the foot because there
had been rain the previous day; soft yellow leaves,
mingled with brown and citron. Overhead the bare
branches shone like bronze in the glow, the deep green
of fir and gloom of yew seeming strange amidst the
amber and orange light and colour. A few minutes
more and Cassilis was out of the woods, and in the nar-
row hedgerow path that led down through the sloping
meadow. Here the notes of a violin came through the
still, moist air. He knew the player; a wizened old
man living in one of the cottages down the hillside,
who was known as ' Eli th' fiddler,' and whose playing
might have soothed the madness of Saul. Eli's instru-
ment was poor, but it sang as only a violin can sing, and
its song was that miracle of sound, the ' Cujus Ani-
mam.' No words fit that music. It is an inarticulate
cry to which each soul puts its own words, rising as on
eagle wings, beating upward to the sun. Cassilis
stopped a moment to listen, then walked slowly down-
ward to the lane.
BESIDE the little spring that gushed out by the
gnarled hawthorn into the lane was a rough
wooden bench, placed for the convenience of the cot-
tagers coming for water; and as Cassilis turned the
corner of the meadow path, he saw Thea Basset sitting
there alone, her dull blue garments almost the colour
of the distant horizon, and a cluster of tawny chrys-
anthemums at her throat. She did not immediately
perceive him, and he paused a moment with a sense of
Truly this grim fairyland was good to him after
its own mocking fashion. It scattered its gold royally
— the gold that was but withered leaves ; poured out
its wine with kingly generosity — the wine that fevered.
And again the sense as of swift breathless running
came over Cassilis.
He walked on and greeted Thea.
' Are you going to the cottages ? ' she enquired. ' I
have just left a charitable parcel at one.'
* I am not going anywhere. I am returning from
' Did you see any of the Outwood people? '
* Only Mr. Occleston. He was good enough to ask
me to dine there to-night, and assist in capturing a few
poachers. By the way, I have always admired the
A Study of Remorse 291
liberality of Ringway in the matter of rustic seats.
Whenever one wishes to sit down, there is sure to be a
' Do you wish to sit down ? ' Thea drew her blue
skirts aside. ' You can have one end.'
' Thank you.'
' I am listening to old Eli's violin,' she continued. ' I
remember that the violin is one of the three perfect
things made by man, and I think the " Cujus Ani-
mam " is well-nigh perfect too.'
' Yes, it is,' assented Cassilis.
Then they sat silent, listening in Mannannen's gar-
den to magic as potent as his. For it is one thing to
hear that music within four walls, and another to hear
it in a November sunset, looking over that wide valley,
the dim east to the right, the crimson west to the left,
the bubbling spring at one's feet, and the autumnal
scent of burning leaves floating up the hillside in coils
of thin blue smoke.
Still the violin sang, and Cassilis's whole being cried
out in every note as the wonderful strain rose and rose
— imploring, triumphant, ecstatic ; sinking at last to a
sigh of perfect content. Then all was silent, save for
the whispering of the spring.
' Mannannen's spells still hold,' said Cassilis.
Thea shook her head, smiling. ' Old Eli is the
wizard this time.'
* Is he likely to repeat it ? '
* I think not. That is usually his swan song. Do
you like the smell of burning leaves? I am rather
fond of it. The particular pyre of the summer that is
smoking now is in the far orchard, and a girl is stirring
it. I was inclined to help her, but as she wore a new
292 Quality Corner
pink ribbon at her throat, I fancied she was expecting
someone else ; so I came away.'
' Is the wearing of a pink ribbon a sign of expecting
somebody ? '
' Unless the day is Sunday — yes.'
' You were probably right, for I think I see two fig-
ures down there in the shadows, whence the smoke-
lA little silence. Then Thea spoke again.
' Which do you prefer, looking north over the valley
from here, or south from the churchyard? There is a
difference, I think, in the effect on one's spirit whether
one looks north or south.'
' In what way ? '
* Well, I believe one's thoughts become deeper, more
sombre, more steady in flow; and one can sit looking
north for a much longer time than one can look south.'
' Yet it seemed to me that I would gladly have pro-
longed that Sunday morning looking south from the
churchyard, when we talked of Dante, and our neigh-
' Ah, that was summer. The south needs summer
for its charm, the north charms always. That is what
Cassilis was leaning forward, his hands loosely
clasped between his knees.
' I know that feeling,' he said. ' I think it is the
race turning instinctively towards the cradle home,
where the lava flows over the snow ; for that swinging
north like the compass is only felt by the descendants
of the Norsemen. A true Saxon has not the faintest
idea of it. Yes, one's thoughts grow sombre, as you
say, and old legends crowd on one's mind.'
A Study of Remorse 293
He raised himself and glanced to the left, where
the sun, a ball of crimson fire, was sinking into the
violet mist on the horizon. The sunset was fading
from the hill and valley, but the end of Outwood Mere
shone liquid ruby, a splash of vivid colour in the dis-
' Do you remember,' Cassilis asked, drawdng his
companion's attention to the mere, ' that strange lake
discovered by Semiramis in Ethiopia, the waters of
which were scarlet and tasted hke wine? Whoever
drank those waters went mad and confessed his mis-
* I remember the story. The mere has reminded
you of it ? '
' So much so that I believe I must surely have
drunk of that scarlet wine, for I am about to confess
my misdeed. Would more of my Dark Fairy-tale
weary you ? '
' Is the question necessary ? ' Thea spoke with the
glance of sympathetic comprehension and the swift
smile he knew so well.
' Thank you.' He paused a moment, looking straight
before him, and rather wondered why he wished to
say anything at all. What possible good could come
from his speaking of the past? Yet an irresistible im-
pulse drove him on.
' It is the end of the chapter,' he said, ' the chapter I
left unfinished when I spoke of it in the woods on the
night of the Outwood supper. What did I say then?
That I once had a friend, and lost him by death. I
think I also said that I was poor in those days. Jeffries,
in one of his books, tells how he has gone to the Na-
tional Gallery to sit down and rest when he was too
294 Quality Corner
poor to afford twopence for a glass of beer. That is
real poverty; nothing else is — nothing short of that.
Few people know anything of this real poverty. That
is just as well, for it is not the nurse of virtue, but the
parent of vices. All extremes are bad. Too great
ease and too great hardship produce pretty much the
same effect — deadness of sensation, which either re-
sults in crime, that is, the effort to obtain enjoyment, to
spur the dying nerves of feeling by any means ; or else
in the apathy — sometimes brutal, sometimes idiotic —
which is another form of degeneration. There are some
men who can pass through any ordeal, even this, un-
scathed ; but they are few indeed, perhaps one in a gen-
eration ; and I do not belong to that noble brotherhood.
Well, details of poverty are not entertaining. Like all
miseries of civilisation, they sap a man's self-respect
unless his force of character be great indeed. The sav-
age hunter is at least a man, the starving citizen is not.
I was becoming faintly interested in the question of how
long I should hold out, when a stranger took lodgings
in the same house. He was a civil engineer, and had
something to do on a new railway that was coming into
the town — a man of unusual gifts, brilliant, generous,
compassionate. To enter into particulars is needless.
Enough that he saved me from starvation and despair,
put new life into me physically and mentally, was a
friend in the utmost sense of the word ; and I believed
that I was grateful, and that I felt for him the same
friendship that he felt for me. I am even persuaded
that I feel it now, though were he standing beside me
he would mock at my words. And he would be right.'
Cassilis stopped, gathered a few blades of grass
from the bank beside him, drew them slowly through
A Study of Remorse 2^^
his fingers and laid them gently down on a patch of
dark moss, against which they shone like fairy pikes of
' My friend loved colour,' he said. ' I cannot even
see those blades of grass without remembering how
he would have admired their vivid green. He noticed
the blue of the sky, whether sapphire or turquoise, the
shadows of the clouds as they floated by. I cannot look
upon the beauty of the world without being reminded
of him, and of the fact that but for me, he would be
living — en j oy ing. '
Cassilis paused again, and Thea, remembering Bas-
set's answers when she questioned him about Rudell's
remark, believed that Cassilis was reproaching himself
for not having succeeded in saving her father's life in
that sudden illness. Perhaps, she argued in her own
mind, he had since thought of other treatment which
might have been efficacious ; and, pitying the regret
which seemed too poignant for the cause, she would
have uttered some consoling words, when CassiUs re-
sumed his tale.
* We say the dead are happier than if living. They
may be, but we say so because it soothes us to say so
— one of the pretty poppies that lull our senses. In the
face of the Christian Belief we Christians can hardly
maintain that a disembodied state is happier than an
embodied, when the resurrection of the body is the cen-
tral fact in that Belief.
' Yet they always get the best of it — all these ill-
treated afflicted ones, sick and in misery, or those more
swiftly dealt with — yes, they always get the best of it
— as is just. Lazarus is greater than Dives, Naboth
more kingly than Ahab. We shut them out from sun
2^6 Quality Corner
and happiness, and ever after we walk in their shadow,
as is most fitting. I thrust my friend out of the warmth
of life and hght and the beauty of the world ; and he
has risen up immortal, mightier than I ; possessing all
these thing more than I. For the memory of the ill-
treated is like that dark cloud issuing from the Un-
sealed Jar by the shore. A small thing the Jar, a small
thing the grave ; and lo ! the Rising Shadow fills
heaven and earth. It is not wise to afflict any human
being, they are so mighty in their death.'
The light in the mere was no longer ruby, but deep-
est crimson, going to purple. Eastward a moon of
orange fire slowly swung up from the far mists of the
' I knew little of my friend,' Cassilis went on, * except
that he was a widower with one child, for whom he
strove to save every penny, for whose sake he lodged
while in Bramsall in that poor back street. He had
hopes of making a fortune by a machine he was in-
venting ; and night after night he worked at the model,
growing more and more sanguine. Meanwhile I had
resolved to apply for a medical appointment in a dis-
tant town and was going there to make my application
in person, as I knew something of a man who was on
the committee and hoped for his influence to back me.
I settled to go one evening in August, by a train that
passed through Bramsall about one in the morning.
I had been to see a man ill with fever whom I was at-
tending — I found afterwards that I had caught it from
him — and I came home to my lodgings at midnight.
My friend looked worn but exultant. He greeted me
and pointed triumphantly to the model before him on
the table. He said he thought it was finished, and it
3Jiyi^'V^^.ii<r — :^'T^-
A Study of Remorse 297
would be a success. He was tired though, he said,
and leaning back in his chair, he took, without looking,
a small bottle from a shelf near. He was taking a
sedative at that time, though I had told him he did not
need it. He was in the habit too, of carelessly swal-
lowing a dose out of the bottle. I kept medicine on
that shelf, and, standing opposite to him, I saw what he
did not — that he had taken the wrong bottle. The one
that he took contained the swiftest poison known.'
A sense of unreality stole over Thea. Was this the
familiar hillside she knew so well? Or was this dim
height overlooking misty depths some ' faery land for-
lorn ' ? Did those eddies of pale smoke, with their
scent as of wine spilt on dead leaves, coil upward from
some wizard's cauldron ? That purple light fast dying
in the mere ; those nearer pools left from yesterday's
rain, shining with the bluish-silver gleam of steel, like
weapons cast away upon a battle-field — a broken sword
here, a twisted bayonet there: what did they all por-
tend? She turned her gaze towards yonder orange
moon slowly rising from the mists, and old words came
into her mind even while she listened to Cassilis. ' The
shield of the mighty,' yes, that was what the flaming
copper disk resembled , ' the shield of the mighty was
cast away . . . upon the mountains of Gilboa ! ' Her
thoughts went back automatically over the narrative.
' Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up ? To-
morrow shalt thou be with me . . . to-morrow shalt
thou . . . '
With sudden horror Thea dragged her mind away
from the echoing death-sentence, looked away from
the deep-coloured moon and the eastward mists to the
west and Outwood Mere. The purple light was now
298 Quality Corner
but a pale glint like a lance-head; and Cassilis was
' " Three things," say the Arabs, " never return :
the sped arrow, the spoken word, the lost opportunity."
For one brief moment I had my opportunity, and in
that moment the devil most surely entered into me.'
i\gain the hillside became as a dream to Thea.
The broad copper-coloured moon dazzled her eyes and
the old words once more rose in her mind. ' The shield
of the mighty . . . cast away . . . Why hast thou dis-
quieted me to bring me up? . . . Why hast thou dis-
quieted me? . . .' Whose words were those? It was
a fantastic thought to connect them with her father!
Could he be repeating them? If so, whose death-
sentence was he uttering ? ' To-morrow thou shalt
be with me . . . To-morrow . . . ' Yet again she shook
off the weird horror, turning her eyes away from glow-
ing moon to the dark outline of the Ridge with a curi-
ous sense of seeking refuge. Whoever slept there,
whether King or Wizard, had surely been a man in
whose shadow was safety — in whose presence rest, else
tradition had not handed down justice and compassion
as his chief est traits. How long does a man Hve in
this world? Till his mortal body dies? or till his in-
fluence ceases? Impressions made in childhood often
rise up oddly in later life ; and as before a storm the vis-
ion of the distant hills draws nearer, so now the person-
ality of that Sleeper on the Ridge became more vivid in
Thea's mind. There lay a mighty one whose shield
was never cast away ; who seemed to have made many
rough places plain, many crooked things straight. In
some strange way the thought of the dead Ruler had a
quieting effect, bringing the girl back as it were to
A Study of Remorse 299
familiar associations, and she listened with calmer feel-
ing and clearer head to Cassilis's story.
' Money,' he was saying, ' is the Ithuriel spear of life.
Touch people with it, and the fiend starts up — strong,
menacing. The moment which would have saved my
friend, which would have saved us both had I spoken
one word — nay, a gesture would have sufficed, in this
moment I neither spoke nor moved. And so I kept
silent, so remained motionless, because the thought
shot through my mind that if my friend died then and
there his invention and the fortune it would bring
might become mine. He had told me that no one had
seen the little model. He had not spoken of it, save
vaguely. I alone knew that it was finished. Why that
inconceivably base suggestion should have crossed my
mind at that moment I do not know. j\Iost solemnly
do I declare that never before had the faintest idea of
treachery entered my thoughts. I could not have be-
lieved myself capable of it. Had I been accused of
harbouring such a thought, I should have repudiated
the charge with the deepest indignation. Even now it
seems incredible to me that I could have had that vile
impulse. Yet I had it. For that moment I was held
by it. I was silent.'
Again Cassilis stopped. He was sitting as before,
with his hands loosely clasped between his knees, and
as he said these last words he softly struck one closed
hand into the palm of the other. The gesture was but
slight, yet something in the way the action was done,
something in the curve of the fingers, conveyed a sug-
gestion of finality — of hopelessness.
' Yes,' he went on, ' I was silent. The next moment
my opportunity was gone, and I was Judas indeed.
300 Quality Corner
My friend swallowed his usual dose at a gulp as he
always did, knew the instant he had swallowed it the
mistake he had made ; knew too, that I had known in
time to save him and had not done so ; for in that in-
stant his eyes met mine, and by the flash of intelligence
in his I saw that he had read my guilt in mine. I have
seen that look ever since. There seemed to be almost
everything in it that human eyes can convey, except
trust. It was but momentary, an instant's comprehen-
sion — amazement — scorn — reproach. Then the eyes
closed, he fell sideways from his chair, and before my
spellbound feet could get round the table his spirit had
' With his fall the evil spell seemed to break. We
were not alone in the room. Mrs. Stanham — June
Heald, now Mrs. Gresty — had been preparing supper.
She had not noticed my friend's fatal mistake, but see-
ing him fainting, as she imagined, she caught him
when falling, and laid him on the floor. It was then
that Parfitt walked down the street. I was standing
by the window, dazed — bewildered by the depth of hell
into which I had thrust myself. I asked him the time
and he replied.
' I had no reason for asking. I knew the time.
But the murderer's feeling of loneliness was fresh upon
me, and my speaking was a blind reaching out for help
of some sort.'
Once again Cassilis stopped. Perhaps he half hoped
for some word from Thea. But she did not speak.
The hush of the November twilight was on the hillside.
In the north-west lay the Ridge, deep violet in colour.
From the low-lying orchard the blue smoke of the
burning leaves drifted upwards and across, passing in
A Study of Remorse 301
wreathing shapes, now veiHng, now reveahng tliose
narrow pools shining with the glint of steel from out
the dark herbage — the broken weapons of a stricken
field. Away westward, was that the mere, or a lost
spearhead gleaming? The moon rose higher, paling
to topaz. Oh ! that shield of the mighty so vilely cast
away — the shield of honour !
' After that,' Cassilis resumed, ' I made the fatal
mistake of going away. Mrs. Gresty reminded me
that my train left at one. I was intending to try for
an appointment, you know. So confused was my mind,
that telling her I would return for the inquest, and that
she had better fetch a doctor at once, I actually left by
the one o'clock train. By the time I had reached my
journey's end the fever had fairly seized me. I was
too ill to do anything. Of course I lost the appoint-
ment ; I never applied for it. Six weeks later, as soon
as I could travel, I went back to Bramsall to see what
had happened ; and found the house shut up and Mrs.
Gresty gone. I inquired for her, but the neighbours
knew nothing save that she had left after the inquest
was over. From that time — ten years ago — till I came
here, I drifted from place to place, feeling that I who
had deprived a friend of life had no right to any peace
of life. Yet I have always wondered — I still wonder
how it came about that I acted as I did. I never cared
for money. Why, then, did the thought of greed wreck
me? The evil must have been in me, or it could never
have so dominated me. Are one's dregs bound thus to
rise? Well, retribution has most justly fallen on me.
Here I thought I had found rest, friends, happiness ;
and here the ever-pursuing past has overtaken me. It
was strange to find my former landlady, whom I re-
302 Quality Corner
membered as a miserable girl ill-treated by a worthless
husband, happily placed at Gresty's farm. She was
pleased to see me, and explained the reason of her leav-
ing the house in Mill Street. Her husband had been in
prison and afterwards ran away to America. She told
me she had never mentioned me at the inquest ; the
verdict had been " Death by misadventure." She also
said she had forgotten to give the model to poor
Thorold's friends when he was taken away to be buried,
but had kept it safely. " Would I take it and try to
find his daughter?" I was most reluctant to handle
the thing ; I did not wish to look upon it again ; but I
felt that duty compelled me to place the machine in the
hands of its rightful owner. So I took it and have it
now. I shall search for the child and send it to her.
She must be nineteen or twenty. Her father spoke of
her as Dolly. Mrs. Gresty tells me Thorold was buried
in Lincolnshire, but does not recollect the name of the
village. That is all the clue I have. Well, after this
strange reappearance of the model, Parfitt recognised
me, and I saw that my punishment was only beginning
when I thought it had ended. Most generously Mr.
Basset forbore to question me about that fatal night,
but the coils are tightening round me. It is strange
indeed that I should have come here, among the friends
of the man I slew — for undoubtedly I slew Thorold by
my silence. Rudell, I find, was present at the inquest.
He, of course, never heard of my being in any way
connected with Thorold till Parfitt told him I was in
the house at half-past twelve that night. Naturally the
concealment of my presence arouses his darkest sus-
picions, and my apparent flight condemns me. He
thinks I deliberately poisoned my friend, and his belief
A Study of Remorse 303
is reasonable. Had I not gone by that one o'clock
train these suspicions would hardly have fallen on me.
But I can never explain that seemingly hurried de-
parture. My hope of an appointment, my attack of
fever — all merely appear so many excuses. Therefore,
I am leaving Ringway. The accusation now hanging
over me is one to which I have no answer. I was not
the deliberate villain Rudell believes me to have been,
but my sudden vile thought and consequent silence
produced the same result. I deserve condemnation.
I leave here to-morrow. My plans are uncertain. In
fact, I have no plans, save to find Thorold's daughter
and give her that accursed model.'
Cassilis ceased speaking. He had meant to say more
— ^to have told the wretched tale differently. ' How is
it,' he thought, ' that one invariably tells one's own
story so badly, and the stories of others so well ? '
Then his companion turned her face towards him,
and in the mingling lights of glimmering west and
climbing moon he saw she was very pale, and in her
eyes was a great compassion.
' Forgive me,' he said. ' I had no right to trouble
you with my tale of guilt. I should not have done so
but for the suspicion that will rest upon me when I
have left Ringway. I wished you to know the truth,
lest you should deem me even blacker that I am. A
foolish wish on my part, for why should I imagine that
you will give even a passing thought to a stranger who
came and went in the course of a few months? But
this has truly been a magic garden to me; the one
chapter of my Dark Fairy-tale that I could desire to
live again. Is there no wizard spell to stay Time's
304 Quality Corner
Thea looked towards the dim Ridge where the King
lay sleeping. She was minded to keep silence — to let
Cassilis remain in ignorance that here, beside him, sat
the child ' Dolly.' Yet she marvelled at his bHndness,
thinking that surely he must know her name. And
while she sought for words that would not reveal the
truth, he misunderstood her speechlessness.
* I inspire you with horror. That is just. I deserve
She checked him by a swift gesture of negation.
Often, very often, had Thea's hands, gestures, manner,
reminded Cassilis startlingly of Thorold, yet his un-
consciousness had been complete. But now, with his
whole being vibrating with the terrible strain of the
breathless race he had been running before his hunters ;
with the knowledge that to-morrow would see him once
more a well-nigh penniless wanderer; with the excite-
ment of his confession upon him ; he at last compre-
hended — read in Thea's eyes the truth he had never
' I understand,' he said quietly, and his voice sounded
curiously flat ; ' you are Thorold's daughter. Of course
I might have guessed that long ago. The name mis-
' I thought you knew my name was Thorold.'
' No. And I had only heard of the child as ' Dolly.' "
' I am called Dorothea. To my father I was always
' I see. How simple it all is ! I have been strangely
blind, for I have often noticed your resemblance to
him. But the different colouring deceived me ; his eyes
were blue and his complexion ruddy. The likeness is
the likeness of gesture and manner and thought. Over
A Study of Remorse 305
and over again I have remarked it, yet never for one
moment did I dream you were his daughter.'
There are some things so wildly improbable that
when they happen no astonishment is felt. Or perhaps
the surprise is so great that it ceases to be felt ; the
mind merely acquiesces. That Thea Basset should be
Dorothea Thorold seemed to Cassilis so natural that
he could have believed he had always known it. Of
course she was Thorold's daughter — of course — of
course ! Who else could she be ? Why, every gesture
was Thorold's ! Those varying inflexions of voice, that
vivid personality — the flower, as it were, of Thorold's
strong vitality; the keen perceptions, the quick turns
of cultured thought — all were Thorold.
Cassilis rose. ' What can I say ? ' he asked, looking
down at her. ' What can I possibly say after having
told you the story you ought never to have heard —
least of all from me. All I can do is to go, and that
speedily. I spoke of retribution. It is more complete
than I imagined.'
' You are too merciless to yourself,' Thea rephed,
and her voice had the softness of the mist. ' It was a
moment's evil thought caused by fever. Do you think
you are wholly accountable for that half-delirious
thought ? You say you fell ill the next day ; then you
must have had the fever that night.'
' My mind was clear enough. I knew what I was
doing and what I had done.'
' Still, you were not yourself. It was a terrible mis-
take, not a crime. I am sure ' — she paused and looked
at the violet gloom of the Ridge, then back again at
Cassilis — ' I am sure my father himself would say so.'
' Thank you.'
3o6 Quality Corner
' You speak of going away,' she went on, * but all
that Mr. Parfitt says will be forgotten when he leaves.
Had you not better talk to Mr. Basset before you take
such a step ? '
* No man could have a better friend than Mr. Basset,'
' I think he would be hurt if you went away without
telling him of your intention.'
* I have thought of that.'
* Have you ? I am glad. Then you will at least hear
what he has to say ? ' She stopped a moment, then
added, ' He would believe you.'
* I am sure he would.'
A clock in one of the cottages below them struck six,
the tinkling sounds coming clearly up the hillside in the
stillness of the dusk, and Thea rose.
' That clock is wrong,' she said, speaking as people
do of some trivial matter to relieve a spiritual strain. 'I
think it is not much more than half-past five.'
* About that,' rejoined Cassilis, taking out his watch.
' Yes, half-past five.'
' I thought so because the west is not yet dark/
No, the western horizon was not yet dark, but shin-
ing with a wonderful ice-blue light thrown up from
under the world's rim — a light that lit the rainpools
and glimmered in the mere. The whitening moon still
hung low in the east — too low to flood that eerie after-
glow, only high enough for the moon rays to mingle
tremulously with it in mid-air. And, as Thea stood
beside him on this legend-haunted hillside, this place of
dreams, this magic garden of the mighty Dead, Cassilis
felt most vividly her singular attraction. She seemed
a part of the soft mist and subtle lights of sunset and
A Study of Remorse 307
moonrise, living dust of earth and heaven, spirit of
many spirits. Down through the centuries heart of
soldier and soul of saint, grim toil of worker, hopes and
fears of millions — all had helped to create that which
was Thea. But Cassilis saw her too as Thorold's
daughter; knew that she was to him what some one
man or woman is to each man or woman — the one
companion in whom all the charm of the world finds
expression ; and to him, unattainable. This was the
waking from his dream of rest.
Yet he was not — had never been — her fitting mate.
She needed one less complex, a nature of broader
grander lines, a fire of life pure and strong as the
colourless flames seen by the great Tuscan beyond the
' I thought,' said Cassilis, with a gesture towards the
mere, ' that I had there found Lethe, but it is Eunoe.'
' Do you so much desire Lethe ? To wish for forget-
fulness is to wish for loss of personality. You are too
severe a judge of yourself. You were but half re-
sponsible for your thought. Remembrance need not be
She held out her hand. Cassilis raised it to his lips.
' Thank you,' he said. ' Yet I do desire Lethe.'
For here ended his dream of rest.
They walked silently up the hill, along the lane they
had traversed the first night of Cassilis's arrival in
Ringway, then out on the high road, where the lights
of Quality Corner sparkled below in the dusk.
' I think Mr. Basset is in his study,' said Thea as they
drew near the Corner.
' Your consideration is infinitely more than I deserve.
I can only say that my gratitude is equal to my un-
3o8 Quality Corner
worthiness. I will not come in now, for I have a
patient to see before I go to Outwood/
' Ah yes, you are dining there to-night. Good-bye
then till to-morrow.'
' Good-bye,' said Cassilis, and standing in the road,
he waited till she had disappeared within her own door.
When it closed upon her, he turned and went swiftly
up the road again. Half-way to the woods he stopped
and looked back at the lights of Quality Corner.
' It only needed this,' he said aloud. ' Only this ! '
He had thought himself hunted. Well, the chase
was over now, the quarry pulled down. He would not
think. Beside, what need for thought? Had he not
known in some dim fashion all along? He must have
known ! He had a few hours left. He was going to
Outwood. At the end of the hunt there was usually
a feast, and he could eat, drink, and be merry with the
best of them. Why not ? The chill had not yet come,
the fever still burnt in his veins. He would enjoy those
last few hours. The loss of all things does not always
produce stupor. Sometimes it gives, for a little while,
an added capacity for enjoyment — wild Berserk de-
light. So had it been for many days with Cassilis. So
was it now. The blow he had received on the hillside
had spent its staggering force. He had steadied under
it, with but an acceleration of pulse — an added excite-
ment. He was not to be pitied at this time. The time
for pity would come, when pain had changed to dull
He reached the woods, paused for a moment looking
into the dark moon-flecked aisles ; then returned to the
town by another and a longer way.
AN hour later Cassilis, returning home, saw old Sol
and stopped to speak to him. The old seedsman
was standing on his doorstep as usual, the light from
the shop illumining his white head and spare figure,
and falling here and there on the lounging bystanders.
Ringway was very cheerful at dusk. It lit its lamps
and stirred its fires, left its windows uncurtained and
gossiped at the front doors. To-night this cheeriness
of the little town smote Cassilis with yet another pang
of regret in that he must leave it. He liked the low
hum of conversation in the increasing darkness, the
home lights shining out from the houses, the pale moon-
light on the roofs.
' 'Tis a fine night, sir,' observed Sol, and the accus-
tomed group of idlers politely melted away, leaving the
' Yes, it is a lovely night.'
Sol oflfered the Charles Edward snuffbox, and then
took a pinch himself, but spilt the greater portion, a
sign with him of extreme perturbation.
' Sir,' he said, slowly closing the lid, ' I am an old
man, and have spoken to many a gentleman, so I reckon
yo' willna take it ill that I should speak what's in my
mind ? '
' I shall not take it ill. What is it ? '
While thus replying, Cassilis's thoughts took one of
3IO Quality Corner
their comet-like sweeps again, describing a wide erratic
orbit, yet with swift returning to the central controlling
point. The uselessness of it all ! Of the past years, of
the future, of the evil thing which he had done. Oh,
he would listen to all old Sol had to say; he liked the
old man. Besides, Cassilis always listened, as was his
duty. For surely when the Almighty has patience to
hear what His dust-miracles have to say, they might
have the grace to listen to each other.
' Well, sir, to put it plainly, theer's a tale about that
Mr. Parfitt o'er theer,' glancing towards the Corner,
' knew yo' years agone in Bramsall, when things wuma
so well wi' yo', an' that you're thinking o' leaving
Ringway along o' Mr. Parfitt an' his sayings. Now, sir,
dunnot do it. Theer's nowt like holding on. Yo' hold
on an' let yon Parfitt chunner his fill. I've seen
a-many curious happenings. You'd be surprised, sir,
what a deal a man sees standing on 's doorstep for forty
year an' more. Even sin' my father died I've stood on
this doorstep summer an' winter, an' I never knew any
good come o' turning one's back to folk's lies. Let 'em
holler to your face; they'll soon get tired on't. Yon
Parfitt's going afore long, an' I'll warrant he'll noan
coom back again. If you'll excuse my speaking, sir ! '
His listener smiled. Here was Pugh's advice re-
iterated. No doubt both he and Sol were right. Had
the situation been less hopeless, Cassilis would have
probably done as advised. He had an instinct for
holding on. But now, to his thinking, his overthrow
was complete. He heard old Sol with full appreciation
of the kindly old-world feudal feeling that prompted it,
and also with an odd sensation as of bidding farewell.
' Thank you,' he said, ' it is pleasant to find one has
A Study of Remorse 311
friends who believe in one. I am aware that Mr.
Parfitt, intentionally or otherwise, has created some
suspicion of me. But what he thinks, and what others
think in consequence of his words, is not true.'
' Sir,' responded Sol, ' theer wur no need fur yo' to
' I know. But I preferred to say it.'
' I hope, sir, as yo'll think o'er what I say, an' I say
it fur a-many folk beside mysen.'
' I will think over it.' He held out his hand to the
old man, who grasped it with evident feeling.
' I suppose I am a liar,' Cassilis reflected as Ee went
home, ' a shifty liar. Truly I am laying up treasure for
myself hereafter — treasure that will sink me.'
He dressed for Outwood ; then found he had a few
minutes to spare, and looked around on his books,
thinking that he would take them with him when he
left Ringway in the dawn. They were so few. A
couple of boxes would hold them. He unlocked the
cupboard in which was the model. At last he could
fulfil his charge; he could give Thorold's work to his
daughter. The mockery of it all ! Again, after all the
years, Cassilis marvelled at his own exceeding baseness,
which, like all baseness, the years had revealed to be
also his own exceeding folly. ' And I never cared for
money ! ' he said aloud, laying his hand on the web of
steel, ' nor do I now. What possessed me ! '
He took the model out, feeling still the curious calm
and exaltation that had dominated him since that hour
on the hillside. There was a small square mahogany
box that had accompanied him in his wandering. It
would do. He placed the model in the box, tied it up,
and addressed the parcel to Thea. Having done this,
312 Quality Corner
he went downstairs and found the cab waiting to take
him to Outwood.
The night was full of moonlight and autumn scents,
but QuaHty Corner lay in shadow. The climbing moon
had not yet risen over the tall old houses. Standing
on the pavement, Cassilis looked at Basset's windows,
where firelight and lamplight glowed through the
silken curtains. Those brightly-lit windows repre-
sented to him all that makes life more than mere exist-
ence, and he stood without — must needs so stand.
Here the remembrance of familiar words came to him
like seaweed dimly seen beneath the wave — ' Without
are murderers.' Yes, that was the sentence, ' Without
Then he drove away into the moonlight and the mist.
He would see those windows again ; on his return to-
night, in to-morrow's dawn, and — as long as he lived.
But he meant to enjoy himself at Outwood. The
strange exhilaration still held him, the fever still burnt
in his veins. So long as that lasted, at least he lived —
at least he lived ! He said this over and again to him-
self as he was borne along the wide high-road, pale
in the moonlight; past the scattered homes, past the
dark woods, till the mere glimmered on the right, and
the old house outlined itself against the sky. At this
point of the road Cassilis told the driver to stop first
at Pugh's villa, for there was the chance of his having
returned sooner than was expected, and to see him now
was more convenient than visiting him later from Out-
wood. Best not to lose even one moment of this last
night in civilisation.
' 'Tis easy to see owd Pugh is teetotaler,' said the
driver resentfully, as he got down and struggled with
A Study of Remorse 313
the intricate fastening of the gates; 'a chap that took
his beer regular 'ud ha' a sensible sort o' catch as 'ud
open if yo' fell up against it, an' shut o' its own accord.
This here toy puzzle takes a sober mon a good ten
minutes an' a' his sense to see th' hang of it. Nobbut
childish, I call it ! But theer ! teetotalers is as full o'
whimsies as a two-year-owd babby.'
Here the gate suddenly flew open and as suddenly
recoiled, hitting the mare on the nose as she walked
forward ; whereupon the driver expressed strong opin-
ions as to Mr. Pugh's ultimate destiny. Cassilis
laughed and sympathised. He had himself often
wrestled with that fastening. Indeed, on one occasion
he had solved the difficulty by getting over the gate,
and the driver's feelings appealed to him. Also, he was
in the mood to be amused. Was he not coming to Out-
wood for amusement? — his last amusement. Now
that Ringway would soon be to him a memory only,
he felt how congenial place and people alike had been
to him. High and low, he had fraternised easily with
them — had been pleased, amused, happy.
Pugh was not yet back; he would have to be seen
later after all. So Cassilis drove on through the fir
plantation, over the bridge, and up to the hospitable
old house. He enjoyed himself at dinner of course.
Anthony was there, and Herries, and several other
men whom he knew.
' A pity you've got to waste time with Pugh,' Oc-
cleston remarked when dinner was nearly over, and all
at the table were discussing the latest variety of poacher
and the best way of catching him.
' Is Mr. Pugh ill? ' enquired Mrs. Occleston.
' Well, he says so,' replied Cassilis. ' Just now I do
314 Quality Corner
not agree with him, and we spend our time arguing
' I am surprised that he sends for you/ rejoined Mrs.
' He wishes to convince me that I am mistaken.'
' Don't let him argue too long to-night,' said George,
' or you'll miss the fun. You know the rendezvous,
and if the row has begun you will hear where we are.'
' I do not suppose I shall be more than ten minutes
at Pugh's,' said Cassilis.
But he was rather longer than he expected, for Pugh,
greatly interested, asked numberless questions about
the Outwood poachers and the arrangements made to
Presently a shot broke the quiet, then another.
' Them's poachers,' observed Mr. Pugh. ' Do you
call that Christian doings ? '
' On the part of the poachers ? — no,' said Cassilis.
' Is yon Parfitt there ? '
* He was not at the house, but I heard he was to join
the party later.'
' Well then,' with slow emphasis, ' if I was in your
boots, doctor, I'd mistake him for a poacher ! '
Cassilis laughed and shook his head.
' Ay, but I would,' persisted Mr. Pugh. ' There's a
mort o' chaps as are all the better for mistakes o' that
sort, and he's one on 'em. You should never let by a
chance o' slipping into an enemy; it mightn't come
' I thought you advocated peace at any price, Mr.
'O' course,' serenely, ' when folks is peaceable. But
when they isn't, they've got to be made so, that's all.'
A Study of Remorse 315
' I see. Your attitude is perfectly simple and
' I think it is,' assented Mr. Pugh with pride. ' Now,
if I'd my way, I'd hommer them poachers for poaching,
and I'd hommer other folks for keeping the game.
You've only got to hommer all round, and there you
' Not always. Sometimes the result is, where are
' I dunno about that. Now you heed what I say
about yon Parfitt to-night, and don't look too hard to
see who you're hitting. There's times when an ac-
cident is worth a good deal. And even if you don't
lay him up, you'd feel a kind o' satisfaction in giving
him one for himself. There goes another shot ! — well,
I never! Occleston might ha' been neighbourly and
asked me to help.'
' To help ? ' echoed Cassilis, astonished.
* To be sure. Why not ? I reckon I could do as
well as yon Parfitt. He's a weedy-looking chap. Do
you want a loaded stick? There's one by the hall-
door. Take it as you go out.'
' No, thank you. I have my own. I will tell Mr.
Occleston what you say about helping.*
' Ay, do. He might think on't some other time.
Good-night. See you to-morrow.'
As he went into the moonlit chill of the November
night, filled with woodland scents, Cassilis thought it
was hardly probable that Pugh would see him either to-
morrow or at any time again. For more and more he
felt inclined to leave Ringway before to-morrow
dawned. He told himself that he would enjoy to the
3i6 Quality Corner
last, and he did. After all, this was a good day that
fate had given him ; yes, a good day — this day of his
doom. He had lived every hour of the past thirty.
Whether he had been in hell or heaven, he had lived
every minute. He was living them now. He would
live them to the last, and then pass away to the poverty,
stagnation, and vain remorse that are worse than death.
Truly, the civilised gutter is an evil home for those not
naturally akin to it. To work for mere bread, — as if man
lived by bread alone ! His blood boiled into savagery
again as he thought this. Then his sense of justice
rose up ; he deserved his doom, — a traitorous murderer.
He might have had all he wished, had but his honour
held for one fatal moment. Moreover, had he not had
more than his deserts? He had had six months of
Ringway. He had seen what might have been, and
though the vision was as the uttermost mockery, yet
it was better to have seen the rainbow. He had en-
joyed; he was enjoying even now. What a night it
was ! — this November night of the north-west. Not
the white moonlight and black shadows of summer and
the south, but a blue shimmering lustre that was a
caress in itself; a touch chill, subtle, ice in the wine.
Turquoise-coloured moonlight shining through faint
mist; a radiant haze that seemed almost to take shape
and form here and there among the trees. Yonder,
between the beeches, was it only moonlit mist — or was
it Oona ? Over there, that sudden glitter by the mere,
was it only a shining pebble — or a jewel on Nimue's
breast? And the lake itself, dim, mysterious, half
veiled in soft blue vapour, with dazzling gleams where
a moon-ray smote the water aslant like a lance. Cassilis
saw it all, felt the delicate, elusive beauty of it, thought
A Study of Remorse 317
that if yonder luminous mist could take form it would
be — Thea. How still the night was ! Poacher and
pursuer alike had vanished. Where were they all?
He did not wish to think too much. Then he heard
shouts and shots not far away in front, to the right
over the water. Ah, that was better. The noise prom-
ised action ; something to drag thought into another
groove for perhaps ten minutes. This was his last
night, and he meant to enjoy it — he was enjoying it.
He quickened his pace to a run as the noise increased.
All round him was silence and the woodland scents
and shadows. Here was the bridge, the moonlight full
upon it, and darkness at either end. He was running
now at his top speed, and, as he sprang into the light,
three men rushed from the shadows behind him. So
sudden was the attack that, being thus seized from
behind, Cassilis, after a violent but ineffectual effort
to free himself, was lifted over the parapet and flung
into the water below.
The struggle barely lasted a minute, and the men
disappeared into the fir plantation beyond.
Cassilis was a good swimmer, and struck out in-
stinctively, reaching the shore almost directly. To
scramble out would have been tolerably easy, even
though the bank was steep, for tree-roots and jutting
sandstone gave firm grasp ; but in being thrown over
the parapet he had received a severe blow on the head
which partially stunned him. Therefore, instead of
climbing out, all he could do was to hold on to a grass-
grown point of rock and try to call for help. Had he
called? His head was too confused to know clearly
what was happening. Yet he surely must have called ;
for there, on the bridge just above, stood Parfitt,
3i8 Quality Corner
motionless, looking down on him. The moonlight fell
upon both, and Cassilis, looking up, met Parfitt's eyes,
and knew that he was recognised — knew also that he
would receive no assistance. In this Cassilis's per-
ceptions were true. Parfitt did not intend to exert him-
self in the matter. He could swim a little, but the
water of that deep mere would be deadly cold this No-
vember night, and he hated discomfort, as a man of
his type always does. Besides, he was annoyed by the
evident hostility displayed towards him on behalf of
Cassilis by Basset and others, and the greatest vin-
dictiveness is usually called forth by offended vanity.
So, all things considered, Mark really felt no impulse
to interfere. Let Cassilis get out by himself ; doubtless
he could. And if he could not — well, it was no affair
of his — Parfitt's.
Here let no one stigmatise the artist's conduct as
monstrous or unnatural. People have become so im-
bued with the idea of Christian chivalry that they
positively think it is natural for one man to help
another in a difficulty. It isn't. The natural impulse
is to leave him alone. Parfitt simply did the natural
thing. There was no reason why he should incon-
venience himself by pulling Cassilis out, and he did
not. The traitors, cowards, and dirty mean rascals,
male and female, that one meets with are not the human
monsters, the lusus natures one likes to imagine them.
Oh, no; they are simply the natural man acting in
accordance with natural dictates of self-preservation,
self-advancement, and self-enjoyment. The human
animal on the alert to keep out of harm's way, and to do
the best for itself that circumstances permit, combined
A Study of Remorse 319
with an equally natural wish to destroy anything un-
usual, and therefore irritating. Many human beings
revert to the Adam B.C. There is no need to search
history for examples. One may find amazing instances
of meanness and depravity within arm's length any
day. Cassilis himself was an instance of a moment's
falling back to the pre-Christian type. So Parfitt, the
natural man, followed his inclinations, and remained
on the bridge. Ten years ago he felt the impulse to
help, but that had died with the self-indulgent years.
He might have shouted for aid ; there were a couple of
dozen men within earshot, their voices coming on the
air confusedly, making the silence by the bridge seem
deeper. But Mark did not shout; it did not seem to
him worth while. He did not choose to realise exactly
what was happening, and possessed to the full that con-
venient faculty of only perceiving as much as one
wishes to perceive. And the time was very brief.
Perhaps, had it been longer, Mark might have strolled
off to tell the others that Cassilis was in the mere. As
it was, the few moments only sufficed for the artist's
worst side to come uppermost.
To Cassilis, half stunned, striving to collect his
strength that he might either climb out of the chilling
water or summon help, these moments seemed hours.
That dark, steady stream, too, from the wound on his
head; he knew it ought to be staunched, but how?
Then his brain cleared, and he saw Parfitt, and, as their
eyes met, understood that Mark was present merely as
a spectator — an enemy — not as a friend. Twice in his
extremity had Cassilis appealed for help to this man.
The memory struck him oddly as he looked up. If
320 Quality Corner
anyone but Parfitt stood there ! Yet was it not better,
far better, that this mere, in its fantastic beauty of
mist and moonhght, should be the end rather than
the squalid wandering that awaited him with longer
life? Here, however, with his cleared thought, his
strong vitality asserted itself — the fierce clinging to
the union of body and spirit that was natural to him
— and he made one desperate effort to lift himself up
the bank. The attempt was useless, and left him dizzy
and faint. He felt he could not hold on much longer.
Would anyone come? Would Parfitt stand there for
ever? Was that another shot he heard? — distant
Then things became a little vague to CassiHs. That
figure on the bridge who looked on so coldly, was it
Parfitt? — or Thorold, come from the dead to reproach
him? The luminous mist beside him — was it Thea?
' Thorold ! ' he muttered, ' you know I '
Then things became yet more vague. The tuft of
matted grass to which he held seemed to turn to air —
to melt in his grasp like the mist. Softly, gently he
slipped back, and with a faint swirl the dark water
closed over his head.
His disappearance seemed the signal for the silent
spot to wake to life. The eddy had not reached the
farther bank before Tony Occleston burst through the
plantation, followed by several other men.
' He's gone ! ' shouted Tony, pulling off his coat.
' I saw him only a moment ago. Look at that black-
guard Parfitt on the bridge ! I believe he knows all
about it.' And Tony plunged into the mere.
Parfitt, very angry now, turned to go off the bridge,
and found himself confronting Herries.
A Study of Remorse 321
' What were you doing here ? ' enquired the latter.
' You were standing still.'
Again Mark felt the sensation of being at a dis-
advantage somehow. He answered lamely :
' I had just come up, and was intending to seek
' Apparently you were in no hurry,' observed Her-
ries coolly, walking away to the bank.
Anthony Occleston had just come up from a second
' Come out, Tony,' said Herries, ' and I will try.'
' Once more,' replied Tony, and went down again.
' Here ! — let me,' interposed another man. ' I can
stop under water as long as anybody, and crawl about
on the bottom if necessary.'
' It is very deep here in the cleft,' replied Herries.
' Better that we should go down who know it.'
' Where's Parfitt ? ' asked young Fenwick of his
brother in a low tone.
' Don't know,' in the same tone. ' Gone of¥ some-
where. I wish we had not brought him. It looked
awfully queer, standing quietly on the bridge like that
when we came up. Did you hear what Tony Occleston
The other nodded, and turned his attention again to
the mere, where Tony was being helped up the bank
after his third unavailing dive.
' Better order out the boat and drags,' said Herries,
' in case I fail.' And he went in.
As Herries vanished beneath the moonlit surface,
George Occleston arrived with more of his guests.
' What's all this ? Who's in ? We met Tony pelting
ofif for the boat ! '
322 Quality Corner
' It's Cassilis/ somebody answered.
At that moment Herries reappeared, and there was
an instant stir, for he was grasping something.
' Take him,' he said laconically, and Cassilis was
drawn up the bank.
' We'll get him to the house at once,' said George.
' How did it happen ? ' — this to Herries, who was put-
ting on his coat.
' Nobody knows. Unless Parfitt does. He was on
' I hope Cassilis will be all right,' Occleston went on
in concerned tones. ' I'll send for old Simpson. He
has retired, you know, but will come in an emergency.
Likes it. Feels a little dull, I suspect. I was wonder-
ing why Cassilis did not turn up. I though Pugh must
be keeping him. Well, we've got five of the gang.
That's something. One has peppered himself with his
own gun pretty badly ; serve him right ! Simpson must
look at him. But I don't half like this accident to
' Neither do I,' said Herries.
Stillness settled once more over the mere when Cas-
silis was carried up to the house. The dark water had
done its work. It lay in the cleft like a sword, and the
soft shining mist caressed it lovingly ; now veiling the
rippling steel, now showing gleams of light along the
edge ; but charily, as though wishing to hide its treasure
within those glimmering folds. Not the faintest sound
broke that eerie silence of blue vaporous moonlight,
woodland, and mere.
That night Outwood was astir till dawn. Occleston
refused to believe that Cassilis was dead ; and he, An-
thony, and Herries strove for hours to bring back the
A Study of Remorse ^'^^
life they hoped was yet Hngering. When finally even
George saw the uselessness of their efforts, his regret
' The nicest fellow I have met for many a day, and
clever too ! How in the world did it happen ? '
* Parfitt,' said Tony.
' I am not so sure of that/ responded Herries, ' but
certainly he made no attempt to save him.'
' I distinctly saw Cassilis holding on to the bank,'
said Tony hotly. ' He was looking up at Parfitt, who
could have saved him by merely running down and
supporting him till we came up. He sank before I
could reach him.'
' It looks ugly,' observed George thoughtfully. ' I
wonder when Cassilis left Pugh. There will be an
inquest. Well, I am sincerely sorry for our loss ; the
more sorry because had I not asked the poor fellow
here- to-night it would not have happened. But none
of us can foresee things ; and anyway I did not invite
NEWS travels swiftly in a country place. By eight
o'clock next morning all Ringway knew what
had happened at Outwood Mere. Parfitt had indeed
returned to the Corner before midnight, but beyond
telling his sister that Cassilis had fallen into the lake
and been pulled out, had said no more. Leaving when
he did, Mark was not certain that Cassilis was dead,
and Tony Occleston had remained at Outwood. There-
fore the tidings came by the accustomed channel of
the country folk. Perhaps the Moss Farm was the
first household to hear of the accident. A gamekeeper
told Gresty in the early dawn, the 'wolf's brush,' while
yet there was not light enough to see the colour of the
fallen leaves, and Gresty, coming in to breakfast, re-
peated it to June.
' I'm feart it's true enow,' he added, ' an' a pity it is.
He wur a real gentleman an' I liked him.'
' An' so did I,' replied June. ' I conna believe it's
' No more con I. But things as yo' conna believe are
' He'll be missed by a-many,' said June.
* Ay, he will that,' Gresty paused a moment. ' I thowt
I saw him an' Miss Thea on th' hillside yesterday,
sitting by th' spring. Eh dear! theer's a mort o'
trouble i' th' world.'
' Did th' keeper say how Dr. Cassilis got in ? '
A Study of Remorse 2'^ 5
' He didna exactly know. He says it mun ha' been
th' poachers. Theer wur a regular fight wi' them last
neet, as tha knows. Theer wur a lot on 'em, an' keeper
says three of 'em passed him running off th' bridge.
But Mr. Anthony wur saying that it wur Mr. Parfitt's
doing somehow. O'er at Outwood they wur trying a'
neet to rub th' life into th' doctor after they'd pulled
him out. But he wur gone. Eh ! but it's a pity. Most
like theer'll be an inquest an' if I'm on th' jury I'll see
as Dr. Cassilis has fair play, dead though he be.'
All that morning June pondered over what she had
heard. Had Cassilis and Parfitt quarrelled? And
about what? June had not seen Cassilis lately, save
once or twice in the town. The rumour of his leaving
had reached her ears, but she had not believed it,
ascribing that and all other reports to Parfitt's jealousy.
As for Rudell's evident suspicion, June thought of that
with scorn. Had she not been present when Thorold
died? Did she not know his death was the result of
his own lamentable carelessness ? She was glad Rudell
had not come to the farm again ; and she had hoped
for Cassilis's marriage to Thea; as that, June felt,
would put both Parfitt and Rudell to silence. June
Gresty was, as has been said, a grateful creature. Cas-
siHs had no more sincere friend than she ; and now
that all was over and he beyond praise or blame,
earthly happiness or miser}^ she recalled with super-
stitious awe the words he had spoken that summer
morning when the blackbird was singing in the cherry-
tree : ' Perhaps this is the end of my wanderings.'
It seemed a piteous end. An injustice somehow.
June held that goodness should be rewarded by happi-
ness, and she had seen nothing but good in Cassilis.
226 Quality Corner
Fate had been niggardly towards him, or so it seemed
Later, having been into the town, Gresty came in
with the news that there would be an inquest, and that
Cassilis had probably been thrown into the mere by the
three poachers seen by the gamekeeper.
' But folks are saying,' finished Gresty, ' as Parfitt
wur standing on th' bridge a-looking on comfortable-
loike while th' doctor wur drowning.'
' Then he wur as bad as th' poachers,' said June.
' Ay, he wur. 'Tis a pity him an' Dr. Cassilis couldna
ha' changed places. But nowt never comes to harm ! '
Rudell returned home the same morning, and found
a gloom in Quality Corner that shadowed every house.
Basset was taking upon himself the responsibility of
arranging Cassilis's affairs.
' Apparently the poor fellow had no relatives, or none
worth recognising,' he said to Rudell. ' There are no
papers, except a few relating to his coming here. His
books and personal possessions I shall take charge of
in case anyone appears to claim them. Of course I
shall put the death in the papers. There is money
enough to pay the housekeeper and trifling accounts ;
if there were not I should settle those matters. The
house is mine, and I shall not take the rent due, but
keep it in case any claim is made by anyone in need.
Have you seen Occleston ? '
' George ? No, not yet. I have been hearing about
it all from Parfitt. Old Sol Ingers just mentioned to
me a preposterous report in the town.'
' You mean the belief that Parfitt was the cause of
Cassilis's death? I fail to see that it is preposterous.'
A Study of Remorse ';}^i']
' A little while ago you told me that any man was
capable of anything,'
Rudell was slightly taken aback.
'True; I did.'
* I am not supposing,' Basset went on, ' that your
brother-in-law deliberately threw poor Cassilis into the
mere. But I think it possible that they quarrelled and
a struggle ensued, and Cassilis may have lost his bal-
ance and fallen in. Whether that were so or not, it is
indisputable that Parfitt might have saved him had he
' He tells me there was not time.'
' When one does not wish to do a thing, there is never
time to do it.'
' Well, the idea is, I believe, chiefly Tony Occleston's,
and you know Tony is hasty in forming opinions.'
' I hear Herries noticed Parfitt's delay in summoning
assistance, and spoke to him about it.'
* That sounds awkward, I admit. But it does not
disprove Parfitt's statement.'
' He has told you there was not time. That may
be true ; but whether there was time or not, the ugly
fact remains that he was not attempting to do anything.
He was standing perfectly still on the bridge when the
others came up.'
' There will be an inquest, of course ? '
* It seems a melancholy accident,' said Rudell, after
a slight pause ; ' yet for Cassilis it may be the best that
could happen to him. He was getting under a cloud,
' A cloud of Parfitt's making, which' would have dis-
appeared with Parfitt. As for it being the best thing
328 Quality Corner
that could happen to Cassihs, why of course it is. The
man who dies between thirty and fifty is hicky indeed.
He has had as much as Hfe can probably give him, and
he escapes the long downward journey — the journey
among thieves — evil years that snatch first one thing,
then another ; increasing toil and lessening strength ;
till — his good days past — the victim either dies of over-
work or starvation ; or lingers on lonely, weary, de-
crepit, cursing the training that restrains him from
blowing out his miserable brains.'
' Oh come ! ' said Rudell, ' some of us — many of us —
are snug enough.'
' Yes, we who don't deserve it. I am snug enough,
as you say. I have never toiled. I have outlived my
hopes, fears, aspirations, and am content to aim at —
the possession of a good cook ! Are your aims much
higher, Rudell ? '
' What can one do. Basset ? '
' Cassilis is lucky,' Basset went on. ' Every man and
woman capable of thinking would say the same. But
the world has lost a sympathetic and clever man, and
I have lost a friend.'
Also, though of this he did not speak. Basset was
perturbed on his god-daughter's account. Did she
care for Cassilis or not? Emily Darnton went about
with red-rimmed eyes, openly lamenting; whereas
Thea only looked a little paler than usual, and she
was always pale. Basset had found among the dead
man's possessions the parcel addressed to her. With-
out examining it, he took it into his own house, where
Thea was writing letters in the dining-room, and plac-
ing it beside her on the table, said simply, ' This is
addressed to you, my dear,' and went back to Number
A Study of Remorse 329
One. When he returned an hour later, Thea was still
writing letters, but the parcel was gone. She made no
allusion to it, neither did Basset. Her silence, however,
troubled him, as it showed greater feeling or greater
indifference than her speaking would have done; and
since he could hardly suppose it meant indifference, he
was harassed by the question of how much feeling
might be involved. Yet the silence might merely be
courteous reticence towards the memory of a man who
had laid the best that he had at her feet. Basset hoped
it was so. At any rate, he thought, she had Emily
Darnton to talk to if she wished.
But that sunny brilliancy of hers was fhe foam-
sparkle over the still depths of the sea. Neither to
Emily nor to anyone else was Thea likely to speak of
Cassilis. As time went on, the years would show her
how fatal was that flaw in his character ; how infinitely
better, finer, higher, is that innate Christian honour
which comes from a long line of believing, self-repress-
ing ancestry, and which cannot fail; the iron of cen-
turies beaten into the steel that never breaks ; on whose
absolute, instinctive integrity of thought and action one
may rely as on the return of the dawn or the Word of
the Almighty — from Whom, originally, this splendid
At this present time — as always — Thea kept silence.
Before she opened the box she knew what it contained.
Taking out the model when in her own room, she
looked at it for a long time, much as Cassilis had done.
A turmoil of thought seethed round it. Her father's
toil over and pride in his invention — and it had caused
his death! Then Cassilis's despairing remorse and
long wandering. Best that the little model should
330 Quality Corner
vanish even as had those two whose hves were linked
with it. Doubtless this miserable page of the Dark
Fairy-tale would be read again hereafter, but then the
crooked things would surely be made straight ; Cassilis
would surely be forgiven, and that which he had done
would not be mentioned unto him.
Here she recalled that sunny morning in the church-
yard when Cassilis had spoken of the uselessness of
repentance — the immortality of remorse. Now, re-
membering his enduring regret, his long wanderings ;
remembering too how wholly unpremeditated was that
fatal pause, his fate seemed hard to Thea — hard in its
privations in this world, and in its burden of memory
in the other. Yet he reaped the reward of his deed,
and of that harvest no man can reasonably complain.
To judge of an evil act it is as well to look at it from
the point of view either of its victims or its conse-
quences, or both. Thorold had been sent out of life by
one whom he had rescued from starvation. That was
the plain truth which Thorold's daughter saw with
painful clearness, striving not to see. Of what avail
was it to say other men were greater sinners and en-
joyed their lives notwithstanding their misdeeds ? That
others were worse did not make Cassilis better. A
man is not measured by the standard of his fellows,
but by that of the Almighty, and the two are not the
same. This man had reaped his harvest of his base
treachery. Those others would reap their harvest also.
His Dark Fairy-tale was finished ; the Rider of the
Pale Horse had drawn rein and added the last few
lines, as was his custom. Had but the tale been differ-
ent! Yet it had been one of repentance, useless of
A Study of Remorse 331
course, but still repentance. The average human being
regards repentance as wholly unnecessary till death,
and then completely efficacious. Indeed, he will not
only excuse the transgressions that attract him, but will
weave petty sophistries to prove them right, or at least
trivial — contemptible sophistries to draw the attention
away from the evil of the offences, like the will-o'-the-
wisps that flicker above the pestiferous marsh — lights
that do not help the vision, but bewilder.
Cassilis had not sought to palliate his own wicked-
ness. If he had fallen a slave to his own evil impulses
for one fatal minute, he had undoubtedly been a free
man all the rest of his life both before and after. Yet
that model on the table bore mute witness of how
Thorold had left this present world, and his daughter
sat before it thinking ; as he himself had often sat long
ago, and as Cassilis had sat ; all three with such differ-
ent thoughts ! Thorold interested and hopeful, Cassilis
remorseful and despairing, Thea trying to reconcile the
irreconcilable ; refusing to see what yet she did see, the
truth Cassilis had uttered on the hillside, that repent-
ance and forgiveness do not and cannot annihilate evil
The problem was insoluble. What use in thinking
further? Thea rose and restored the model to its box.
It should never be seen save by her. Best that it should
vanish. By-and-by she would arrange its disappear-
ance. Even to Basset she would not show it, Cassilis's
confession was made to her alone.
That night she looked at the model again, touched
it gently — curiously — feeling an interest in it apart
from pain ; wondered if her father had been proud of
22'2. Quality Corner
it, if he would prefer her to keep it. But that she could
not do. She left it uncovered all night, and the moon-
rays in their slow travelling gHmmered on the steel as
on some fantastic web meant for the entanglement of
rarer things than flies.
ALL Ringway went to the inquest, and those who
could not get into the room discussed the matter
outside. Public opinion emphatically objected to
Parfitt. Tony Occleston's observations had been re-
peated far and wide and were accepted by the majority.
Herries too, when he appeared as a witness, did not
increase the artist's popularity by the statement that
Mark was quietly standing on the bridge when the
others came up. Neither was the jury likely to regard
him favourably, for Mr. Pugh was foreman. A man
of Pugh's idiosyncrasies thoroughly enjoys being on a
jury, it affords such opportunity for contradiction.
Besides, Pugh sincerely regretted Cassilis's death.
Where could he find such another companion? Life
would be distinctly duller. When the rumour of
Parfitt's guilt reached his ears, Pugh believed it at
once and for ever, and resolved to do his duty. This
resolution was visible all over him as he walked solidly
to his place as one of the twelve.
' Pugh means to be an awful handful,' said George
Occleston to Rudell in a low voice. ' Look at the way
he is sitting down. When a man settles himself in a
seat as though he meant to stick to it throughout
eternity, you know what to expect ! '
' Why should Pugh concern himself particularly ? '
334 Quality Corner
' Well, he liked Cassilis. As everyone did except
* I always acknowledged that he was a capable man.'
' That is not Hking. Parfitt was his enemy, and you
listened to Parfitt. It is all over now,' continued Oc-
cleston. ' We need not quarrel about the poor fellow.
But I esteemed him greatly and had much enjoyment
in his society ; and — hang it all, Rudell ! — Parfitt could
have pulled him out had he chosen to do so.'
' I am not prepared to admit that,' said Rudell.
' Herries says so. Ask him. There he is by the
door, with Anthony and Basset.'
' And I am not responsible for my brother-in-law's
actions,' continued Rudell.
* I should like to make him responsible for his own/
The inquest was conducted on Ringway principles,
that is, with a comfortable absence of ceremony. Par-
fitt's evidence was received in ominous silence, until
Mr. Pugh pleasantly observed :
' My opinion is that Mark Parfitt an' James Cassilis
had words on the bridge, an' Mark Parfitt threw James
Cassilis over. '
' That's a lie ! ' said Parfitt.
'All right,' responded Mr. Pugh, 'but thai don't
alter my opinion.'
Here the coroner interposed to ask Parfitt whether
he could swim.
' A little.'
' Then why did you not go to the assistance of Dr.
Cassilis ? '
' I never supposed he needed any.'
A Study of Remorse 335
* I reckon,' said Mr. Pugh, addressing Parfitt, ' as
your words to me 'ud come in handy now.'
The coroner, a meek little man, who felt the control
of Pugh altogether beyond him, again interposed :
' But you saw he was holding on to the bank ? '
' I did not notice.'
' At any ratt, you saw him in the water. If you had
gone down to the mere-side and supported him till help
came he would have been alive now.'
' I supposed he could get out. There was really no
time to do anything.'
' Other folks could get wet jackets in half a minute,'
remarked Pugh. ' You didn't even wet your hands.
But they'll need a deal o' washing to get rid o' this ! '
A breath of approval passed through the listening
* Upon my soul ! ' whispered Occleston in Basset's
ear, ' I had no notion Pugh had so much in him.'
' I perceive,' said Parfitt with cold anger, ' that a
ridiculous attempt is being made to consider me re-
sponsible for this accident. But here is a keeper who
saw me go on the bridge and stand there alone, and
I have other witnesses.'
' We will take the keeper's evidence next,' said the
' Dr. Cassilis was all right when he left my house,
as my gardener can testify, for he shut the gates after
him,' said Pugh, ' an' that was twenty-five minutes past
ten. There were three shots fired afore then an' eight
after, for I counted 'em. Now where was Cassilis
when them eight shots were fired ? ' looking enquiringly
towards Anthony Occleston, who replied :
2^6 Quality Corner
' The last shot was fired just as I saw Dr. Cassilis
' Well,' resumed Pugh, ' yon last shot was fired at
fifteen to eleven. I'm particular about my clocks, as
folks know ; an' the doctor was in the water then. That
gives twenty minutes to account for. Now,' turning to
Parfitt, ' where was you them twenty minutes ? '
' In the woods with the rest of the party.'
* Till you walked on the bridge ? ' put in the coroner.
' Till I walked on the bridge, of course. But I was
there no time to speak of.'
' Nay,' said Mr. Pugh, ' that's just the time as we
want to speak of — the time when you was standing still
on the bridge instead o' helping or hollering.'
At this point the coroner suggested that they might
as well hear what the gamekeeper had to say.
' Why not all of 'em ? ' demanded Mr. Pugh. ' I'd
like to hear what all the keepers have to say.'
However, it appeared that only two had any in-
formation to give. The first had been in the farther
plantation, had seen three men rush by him from the
direction of the bridge, and had started in pursuit, but
stumbled over a tree-root and fell. When he picked
himself up, the three men had vanished. So he went
back towards the bridge, as the men had come from
' Had you heard no noise before the men passed
you ? ' asked the coroner.
The keeper was not sure. There was a good deal of
noise in the woods just then. He could hardly tell
from what quarter it came. As he went back to the
bridge he saw Mr. Parfitt in front of him.
A Study of Remorse 337
' An' where had Mr. Parfitt been afore you saw
him ? ' enquired Pugh.
That the witness did not know. But he saw him
walk out on the bridge and stand there in the full
moonlight alone. No one was with him. He — the
keeper — then hurried off to where the fight was going
on. Mr. Parfitt was standing quietly. There was no
The keeper went on to say that from where he stood
he could not see the water, therefore was not aware
that Dr. Cassilis was in the mere ; thought all was right
because Mr. Parfitt was standing there quietly.
' No blame attaches to this man,' said the coroner.
' I want to know how many shots were fired while
Mr. Parfitt was on the bridge,' said Pugh.
The keeper did not remember. He himself was in
the thick of the fight in three minutes or so. When he
arrived he saw Mr. Anthony and several other gentle-
men break away in pursuit of two poachers. They ran
towards the mere.
' An' that was how you got down to the mere an' saw
Dr. Cassilis drowning,' looking again at Tony.
' Yes, that was it. He sank just as I caught sight
* That gives him seven or eight minutes in the water,
at a rough guess,' continued Mr. Pugh, 'an' it leaves
ten or twelve minutes. Where was Mr. Parfitt them
ten minutes ? '
But to Pugh's evident disappointment, which he was
at no pains to conceal, the second keeper stated that he
was with Parfitt up to the time when the latter walked
on the bridge.
23^ Quality Corner
' An' what was you two doing away from the fight ? '
The man explained that he and Parfitt had gone to
look for the rest of the gang, as some of the expected
poachers were missing. He had heard a noise of run-
ning. Supposed it was caused by the three men seen by
the previous witness. Could not see the bridge from
where he and Mr. Parfitt stood at first. They walked
towards it till it came in sight, and then separated, Mr.
Parfitt going on the bridge and himself remaining in
the plantation to look round. No one was anywhere
about. He did not see Dr. Cassilis, as he did not go
near the water. Mr. Parfitt was standing on the bridge
in the moonlight. Then he heard Mr. Anthony and
others coming, and went back in case Mr. Occleston
wanted him. Questioned by Pugh respecting the eight
shots, the keeper replied that he had not counted them,
but Mr. Parfitt was either with him or within sight
during the whole of the firing from first to last.
' Oh, was he ! ' observed Pugh with obvious unbelief,
' an' them three poachers chucked the doctor in, I
suppose ? '
' That is certainly my opinion, Mr. Pugh,' said the
coroner, ' and I shall hope for their discovery and
Compelled to let his prey escape, Pugh drew his own
conclusions ; the three men were mythical, the keepers
had been bribed. Of that he was positive, and there-
fore contrived to make the verdict as unpleasant as
possible to Parfitt; the jury stating their opinion that
Cassilis was thrown into the mere by ' some person or
persons not in custody.'
' Unknown,' amended the coroner.
A Study of Remorse 339
* Not in custody,' repeated Pugh, fixing a deliberate
eye on Mark; and the twelve also added a rider to
the effect that Parfitt deserved severe censure for not
attempting either to assist Cassilis or to summon assist-
' These country juries are the most intolerable idiots
living ! ' began Parfitt as the crowd dispersed and he
came out with Rudell. Close behind them was Pugh.
' How much did you give 'em ? ' he enquired,
' Do you insinuate that I bribed my witnesses ? ' asked
' I'm sure on't,' replied Pugh. ' No man can say as I
insinuate. I'm sure on't ! '
' Your w^ords are actionable, Mr-. Pugh.'
' O' course. You bring the action an' I'll defend it.
I'll spend the money cheerful.'
Rudell took his brother-in-law by the arm and led
' Don't be a fool, Mark. Let the matter drop.
You've got out of this better than you deserve. That
standing on the bridge was awkward — very ! '
' I shall return to town to-night,' said Parfitt. ' The
whole affair is outrageous. I have been right about
Cassilis all along. You don't deny there was some-
thing queer, though you won't tell. Yet I am first
snubbed and then held up to ridicule. I'm deuced sorry
I ever saw this hole ! '
' I admit,' said Rudell, ' that you have some right on
your side, but that standing on the bridge is indefensi-
ble. However, we need say no more about it. Cassilis
is dead, Pugh is nobody, and you are going.'
' What was the story about Cassilis ? ' enquired
340 Quality Corner
* Since he is gone, it is not worth while mentioning li.
I may have been wrong in my surmises.'
' Did he pass himself off as the fellow who suicided ? '
' Oh dear no, nothing of the kind. By the way, I
think Basset would buy that sketch if you care to
' Of Cassilis ? Well, I may as well get rid of it. He
has caused me so much annoyance that it is only fair I
should make something out of him.'
' I will take it into Basset's this evening and bring
back the money.'
This slightly soothed Parfitt, so that when he was
back in Quality Corner, and his sister vexedly watched
his packing, he suddenly invited her to return to town
with him for awhile.
' You seem rather glum,' said he. ' You meant well,
Susette, but your little scheme for my happiness has
proved a failure. Looking at things all around, I am
not sure which has won, Cassilis or myself. I about
settled him, and he has settled me — or nearly so. Any-
way, you would be the better for a change. Ask Ru-
dell. And get ready at once.'
' Go, of course,' was Rudell's answer when consulted.
' I will join you later. I am afraid all this has been
very unpleasant for you, Susette.'
' I think everybody has behaved as badly as possible,'
replied Mrs. Rudell. ' I am quite tired of mysterious
drownings and disagreeables.'
' We are rid of them now,' said her husband. ' Give
me that portrait, Mark. I am going into Number Two.'
He found Basset sitting with Tony Occleston in the
A Study of Remorse 341
dusk and flickering firelight, Thea having gone in next
door to see Emily Darnton.
Rudell produced the charcoal drawing of Cassilis,
* You wanted it,' he said.
' Yes.' Basset took it up. ' I will write a cheque for
* Do you mean to say,' exclaimed Tony, ' that Parfitt
will take money for the portrait of the man he would
not save ! Well, of all the disgusting ' Tony
stopped. He felt language was not equal to expressing
his opinion of Parfitt at that moment.
' I am glad to have it,' said Basset, looking at the face
— younger than that of the man he had known, yet the
* My brother-in-law goes to London to-night,' ob-
served Rudell after a minute's silence.
' What time does he leave here ? ' enquired Tony.
' My dear boy, professionally speaking, I don't
' You mean you won't tell ! '
' That is my meaning exactly. If I read yours aright,
you intend waylaying him. Best not. He is not worth
a fracas. Besides, my wife is going with him.'
* Oh,' said Tony disappointedly. ' I was waiting
about here to tell him what I thought of him.'
' He knows it already,' rejoined the lawyer.
Basset straightened himself in his chair, sitting bolt
' If Parfitt were not a relative of your wife's, I should
permit myself to observe that I consider him a very low
type — quite the lowest type it has been my misfortune
to meet in presumably civilised society.'
342 Quality Corner
' I think I will tell him that,' said Rudell. ' It will
Here Tony Occleston, hearing Thea's returning
footsteps in the hall, left the two elder men alone to-
' I regret Cassilis very deeply,' Basset added.
' He has disturbed our little world,' replied the other.
' A vivid personality always does. By-and-by the im-
pression will fade, and he will be to us merely the
remembrance of a passing stranger.'
' No,' said Basset.
* Yes,' insisted Rudell, ' it must be so. Only the
brute and the fool are always recollected, because they
leave a generation or so of entanglements behind them
for other people to straighten. That keeps their mem-
ory green ! But when a remarkable man dies — I admit
Cassilis was a remarkable man, whatever may be my
opinion of his doings — his contemporaries experience
a certain relief. There is so much more room for them
to stretch their legs.'
Basset passed his hand over his face.
* Rudell — pardon me — when you are in these moods
you make me comprehend the general feeling towards
Rudell slowly took a pinch of snuff.
' Decidedly,' he said, ' Cassilis was a remarkable man.
He causes quarrelling. That is the sure sign of a re-
markable man. But I am willing to admit it is just
possible that I may be altogether mistaken in my
suspicions, though I cannot think I am. Yet,' Rudell
paused, ' though not for a moment do I defend Parfitt's
conduct at the bridge, it must be acknowledged that in
all else he was right enough. It is that which annoys
A Study of Remorse 343
us. The man who is right is always a nuisance, par-
ticularly if we dislike him. He was perfectly justified
in producing that portrait. As for the unhappy acci-
dent by which Cassilis lost his life, has it not struck
you, Basset, that there was somehow a singular retri-
bution in the whole aflFair ? '
' I perceive none.'
* Yes, you do. Your tone tells me you do. It is
most curious that Mark should have been present both
at Thorold's death and at Cassilis's.'
' You cannot say that he was present at Thorold's.'
' Well, he was outside the house, and Cassilis ad-
dressed him that same night, and close upon the hour
too. Assuming that my suspicions are correct, and that
Cassilis was the cause of Thorold dying, I am im-
pressed by the fact that Parfitt might have saved Cas-
silis, but did not. I am not excusing my brother-in-
law's conduct, but he appears to me as an unconscious
instrument of retribution. The more I reflect upon the
circumstances the more singular they are. ]\Iark really
seems to have been brought here by an inscrutable
Providence to explain and avenge Thorold's death.'
* I prefer not to think so,' said Basset, looking
* I am not excusing Mark,' Rudell repeated. ' I con-
sider him a brute. But there the facts are.'
' I still believe in Cassilis.'
' I do not,' and Rudell rose.
' You will come in to-morrow ? ' asked Basset.
* Emily Darnton is going to stay at Outwood for a
week or two, so I am thinking of running over to Ire-
land with Thea.'
' Quality Corner needs a change,' said RudelL
THUS it happened that CassiUs never left Ringway,
but slept among the dead Ringway folk on the
green hillside looking south that Thea had likened to
the waiting-place of repentant spirits. As the Novem-
ber moon waned, the gold of autumn faded and De-
cember came — the month that is like a peat fire, grey
ash veiling the glow ; the month in which the earth is
still stirring drowsily before sinking into the deep
sleep of January. In December there is the semi-
consciousness of the woodland — the slowing of the
pulse, the ash over the smouldering flame ; the month
in which the sense of life is so singularly acute, perhaps
because so repressed. One is impelled to tread softly,
to listen, like some wild four-footed thing. One re-
verts to the primaeval man, yet retaining all the added
capacity for enjoyment that the centuries have be-
stowed. There is an extraordinary and apparently
wholly unreasonable exhilaration of spirit when one
treads the peat in December, an exhilaration second
only to that given by the sea.
This year December was very beautiful in Ringway.
Day after day brought a dawn of clearest light, a noon-
tide of softened gold, a twilight of sombre crimson, a
night of stars. At last, close upon Christmas, there
came a morning when a little bitter wind blew from
the north, and clouds shut out the blue, grey clouds
with the faint tinge of yellow that betokens snow.
A Study of Remorse 345
Towards afternoon the wind dropped, but the air grew
Now so long as the woods — the mere, basked in the
same mellow sunshine, had much the same aspect they
wore that last day of Cassilis's life, Thea Thorold
had not cared to look upon them. She had acquiesced
gladly in Basset's proposal to go away for awhile, so
for three weeks the mahogany box had remained at
Number Two. On her return the little model therein
grew familiar to her eyes, for again and again and yet
again she sat before it far into the night — as those
others, Thorold and Cassilis, had sat — thinking con-
tinually, yet to no purpose. The Dark Fairy-tale was
finished. If the model could disappear, that would be
the closing of the book till a mightier hand reopened it.
Then the thought of the mere rose in Thea's mind.
There was safe concealment — oblivion — in that deep
cleft. The idea grew. Yes, the lake should take the
fatal thing into its silent keeping. So when the faint
icy wind arose, and the dreamy warmth of the early
winter fled before it, Thea walked over to Outwood
Mere. There was a waiting hush in the woods, a
pause before the coming of the snow. Against the
yellow-grey of the sky the leafless branches outlined
themselves with that unexpectedness and variety of in-
tricate interlacing that the eye follows with such a
grateful sense of pleasure and rest. Unconsciously
peace stole over Thea's spirit — the anodyne of the win-
ter woods. Of what avail was it to try to solve that
which is insoluble? She could not straighten this
crooked thing — destroy the evil thought that had taken
such fatal shape and form. Oh those devils incarnate
that scared the good folk of mediaeval times, and could
346 Quality Corner
themselves be scared by bell, book, and candle ! Small
need to imagine these harmless demons, when by
merely putting our evil thoughts into action we can
create real devils that no exorcism can quell, no priest
can daunt ; devils that will go on working for us while
we sleep in death, that they may, when we awake, dis-
play their finished task before us their creators ; who
stand responsible both for them and for their resultant
Cassilis was happy in that the devil he had raised
was one whose power for active evil in the world soon
ceased. Merciful happenings had checked it at the
onset. Basset had taken Thorold's desolate child,
death had taken Cassilis. He left the shadow of pain-
ful knowledge and sorrowful regret; a faint umbra
this beside the terrific phantoms men daily call up, give
body to, and send forth ; yet equally with these, undy-
ing — uncontrollable — and to be accounted for.
The mere lay in the cleft like dull steel beneath the
lowering sky. There was no one about. Thea placed
the box on the parapet and looked down into the water.
Dimly that dark mass mirrored the arch of the bridge,
the clouds, her own face. She lifted the box, holding
it in both hands outstretched that it might fall clear.
For a moment she hesitated, thinking again of her
father's toil and thought expended on this thing — toil
and thought lying dormant for years, and now to be
lost for ever by her act. Yet what else could she do ?
Produce the model? Explain why and how it had
come into her possession ? Impossible ! If her decision
were wrong, she alone was responsible.
With a perplexed sigh, Thea dropped the box. It
A Study of Remorse 347
turned sideways as it fell, striking the water with a
faint splash, and was gone. The little ripples caused
by its fall flowed away to the banks, and the dark sur-
face was quiet once more. It was gone — the thought
that had been shaped into wood and steel. As for that
other thought, Cassilis's evil thought, and its result,
these were in abeyance ; undone they could not be.
Thea looked down into the black water as though
seeking to read some comfort there. In vain. The
mere could keep a secret, it could give sanctuary from
all the ills of this life, but it could not solve a problem
that lay beyond this visible world. Yet Cassilis had
had a hard life — so hard a life resulting from one brief
thought, and he had repented. His life had been hard
mainly because he had repented. He had surely dree'd
his weird. Then in Thea's mind the words formed
themselves, as other words not dissimilar had shone
in the banqueting hall at Babylon, ' I will render evil
unto this people, even the fruit of their thoughts.'
After all, the real things are the things intangible —
invisible ; thought — feeling. These move the world
for good or evil. Evil had been Cassilis's thought and
its evil fruit had been rendered to him ; and also to
others, for no man liveth unto himself. ' Even the fruit
of their thoughts ! ' Again the words shaped them-
selves before Thea's mental vision, and the underlying
Puritanism in her rose and sorrowfully acquiesced —
that Puritanism which it is now the fashion to decry,
but which nevertheless built the Empire, and is the only
force that is capable of permanently maintaining it.
There is no energy so great as that produced by the
self-restraint of generations.
348 Quality Corner
' I will render evil unto this people, even the fruit of
Standing here on the bridge, Thea felt the influence
of the place more sinister than she had imagined it
would be ; the sight of it had a stronger effect upon her
than she had anticipated. Yet she lingered some min-
utes from a feeling characteristic of her, an inborn
asceticism that compelled her to remain because the re-
maining was not pleasant ; a feeling of compassionate
loyalty that forbade her to hasten from the spot where
a friend had died, no matter how uselessly painful the
lingering might be.
A snowfiake floated slowly down. Then another
and another, skirmishers of the White Company that
the strong north was sending; soft feathery crystals
whirling onward in fantastic manoeuvres, silent legion-
aries whose advance no man can withstand.
As if the first flake had been a messenger, Thea
turned away homeward. Not hurrying; she was too
much a creature of the elements to fear a snowstorm
when her path lay through sheltering woods and the air
was windless, but December days are short and the
dusk would close in before she reached Quality Cor-
The snow fell thickly as she crossed the field where
the barley had rustled in the summer — how long ago it
seemed ! — but within the woods the flakes descended
more slowly, arrested by the interlacing branches. To
Thea, who felt a stronger kinship with nature than
most, the eddying whiteness brought a sort of forlorn
comfort. The last few weeks had been so full of sad-
ness and painful thought, that now the mere had closed
A Study of Remorse 349
over that mute accuser, now that the Dark Fairy-tale
was ended, the book shut till the time when the secrets
of all hearts shall be revealed, the youth in her clam-
oured for relief; turning gratefully to old familiar
playmates of woodland and snow, old memories of
pleasant childish days. She hastened her steps, think-
ing of Quality Corner and her godfather, and all the
warmth and welcome and sunny life that had been hers
there. The snowflakes powdered her shoulders, her
hair, touched her cheek with their light chill ; the twi-
light shadows giving a dim unreality to the falling
whiteness. One moment she stopped by the chestnut,
and glanced round the dusky woods with a renewed
pang of regret for the man who had been such a good
companion. A good companion, yes ; but it needs a
master-hand to bring out the full tones of a Guarnerius,
and that Cassilis was not. He had but struck a few
Then Thea went on. In a minute or two more she
was outside the woods and hastened down the hill — a
lithe snow-besprinkled figure, veiled in the softly-whirl-
ing flakes. There were the lights of Quality Comer
shining faintly through the snow. People were com-
ing up the road from the station ; a train from Woff en-
dale was just in. Basset had been all day in the grimy
city, and here he was, turning into the Comer.
' Caught in the snow, my dear ? ' he said, seeing his
god-daughter. ' I have brought the Bishop back with
me to dinner. I told him we expect Emily, and Mer-
ries, and the Occlestons.'
So they passed into the warm, brightly-lit, flower-
scented old house, and the old life began again ; while
350 Quality Corner
the soft sheltering snow fell more and more thickly far
and wide — over town and wood and field, over hill and
valley, over Mannannen's garden, and over the church-
yard looking south where Cassilis slept among the dead
Ringway folk, in the place of repentant spirits.
THE FOREST SCHOOLMASTER
By PETER ROSEQGER
Authorized Translation by Frances E. Sklnaer
JV. Y. Times.
]\T0 better selection could have
been tnade in introducing this
popidar Austrian novelist to Eng-
lish readers. It is a strange sweet
tale, this story of an isolated forest
community civilized and regenerated
by the life of one man.
A charming new book. Let none who
care for good Uterature fail to make ac-
quaintance with the gentle schoolmaster
ol the forest. — Pittsb:;r^ Post.
Az an exposition of primitive human
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Curiously interesting study.
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popular romance of the well-known
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Melville Davisson Post
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